Label Decoder: Sulfites

If you’re a wine drinker, you’ve probably seen the word sulfite listed on most wine bottles. Find out why they’re used in most wines and if wine-lovers should find a new drink?
Related To:
white wine sangria

147076661

White Wine Sangria

Photo by: gabe palmer

gabe palmer

If you’re a wine-drinker, you’ve probably seen the word "sulfite" listed on the bottles. Find out why they’re used in most wines, and which wine-lovers should be worried.

What is it?

Sulfites are also known as sulfur dioxide and sodium bisulfate (you’ll find these terms on the ingredient list). They help prevent discoloration of dried fruits, shrimp and processed potatoes. They also help prevent bacterial and yeast growth in wine which helps extend shelf life. It's also added to slow oxidation, which preserves flavor as wine ages.

Is it safe?

Mostly, yes, although one in every 100 people with asthma is sensitive to sulfites. The sensitivity can develop at any age, and can vary from itchy skin to not being able to breathe because their throats become constricted.

In 1986, the FDA required labels to list sulfites in foods that contained small amounts of the additive. This made it impossible for restaurants and supermarkets to treat fruits and veggies with sulfites (commonly used before 1986 to prevent browning of produce). This was great news for those with sulfite sensitivities.

If you’re sensitive, you’re best bet is to read the ingredients listed on the package. You’ll also want to avoid wines containing sulfites. Wines that are labeled “100 percent organic” or “USDA organic” don't have sulfites added; these would be an ideal choice for those with the sensitivity.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

Next Up

How to Order Wine in One Sentence — Outsmarting Wine

Here are three ways to order wine with just one sentence.

Chefs’ Picks: Top Holiday Bottles

If you want to buy a few celebratory holiday wines, dazzle your guests with these chefs’ go-to bottles to serve, gift and brighten spirits.

Wine Varietals to Know

With our glossary in mind, let's dig deeper into the big six grape varietals.

Wine to Get the Party Started

Having a party next week and don't know which wine to buy? Or how much? Follow these wine tips to make your party tops.

Reading List: 12 Dangerous Supplements, Gulf Seafood Safety and Wine-Fed Cows

In this week’s nutrition news: Healthy foods that can be deadly, Gulf seafood deemed safe to eat and study finds dorm cafeterias bad for the waistline

Wine for Sangria

Sangria, a mixture of wine, fruit, sweetener and sometimes liquor, is capable of bringing such happiness that science should consider classifying it as an antidepressant. Here are some guidelines to make sangria as uplifting as it can be.

Budget Wines

Wines under $10, recommended by Michael Green

Red Wine: Is It Healthy?

Red wine has been coined the good-for-you alcohol. Does it really provide an amazing-for-you benefit or is it an over-hyped health halo?

Holiday Drinking Strategies

This December, don’t guzzle down hundreds of empty calories at holiday parties. Instead, review these helpful tips before heading out to your next shindig.