How California Winemakers Have Us Hoodwinked Part I – Sulfites

August 22, 2011

I was on a road trip this summer, and I encountered two people who had very interesting things to say about chemicals. The first was actually a very distant cousin of mine who I had never met before. He had a small plot of land growing concord grapes for juice in the Yakima Valley. He said that he was required by law to spray, because if he didn’t, his crop could get infected and then he would infect his neighbors, and so on, and wine and grapes is a major industry that the State does not want to see something so preventable be damaged. He also said that the only difference between him and the organic farms was that the organic farms diluted the same chemical he used, and then applied it more often. Sad, but “organic” does not mean “artificial chemical free” anymore.


The second person of interest that I met was a former wine maker turned mead maker. He had a beef against the California wine marketing, and I don’t blame him. There has been a recent trend to make wines without sulfites, a trend started in California. Thing is, the use of sulfites has been going on for probably 2,500 years, longer than Christianity has been around. Sulfites keep wine stable and help prevent spoilage. Along comes California, who has been making wine for maybe 200 years, and in the last 50 years, they decide to go against all this tradition. Why? Because it might give people headaches. This is not true: sulfites occur naturally in fermenting grapes anyway, and they will still be in the wine. Yes, they can harm one’s lungs, but not cause headaches. That is a result of alcohol, especially acetaldehyde, methanol, and fusel oils.

This winemaker also joked that nobody has actually ever consumed sulfites. For starters, wine makers try to add the minimal amount needed to keep the wine stable. This amount is directly related to pH, so the higher the pH, the more sulfites are needed, and the lower the pH, the less sulfites are needed. This is because lower pH also keeps bacteria from growing. Secondly, winemakers take two readings after they add sulfites. These two readings are total sulfites and free sulfites. Over time, both numbers will go down because free sulfites will disappear. Therefore, he was implying that sulfites evaporate, irritating lungs, but not being consumed.

But the thing is, for 3,000 years, using sulfites has been a practice, but now California wants us to believe this is evil. 3,000 years wrong…

Further Reading:

One Response to “How California Winemakers Have Us Hoodwinked Part I – Sulfites”

  1. dano moral Says:

    It is really a nice and useful piece of information. I’m happy that you simply shared this useful info with us.
    Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

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