How Wine Sulfites Became the Bad Guy

Interest in more naturally made wines—whether they’re organic, biodynamic, or brandish neither certification—is growing alongside a general consumer shift towards foods that contain fewer artificial, processed ingredients. But when imbibers flip over a wine bottle for more information on what’s inside, they don’t find an ingredient list or a nutrition label.

Instead, the tag “Contains Sulfites,” jumps out menacingly.

And while most people don’t know exactly what the phrase means, the warning has created a perception that sulfites must be harmful and should be avoided.

“People are starting to ask questions [about what’s in their wine], and that’s good,” says Gilian Handelman, director of education at Santa Rosa, California’s Jackson Family Wines. The question is: Are they asking the right ones about sulfites—in terms of their purpose, how wines may be different without them, and the truth about potential health risks?

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