ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Are sulfides the same as sulfates and sulfites?

—Bill W., Miramar Beach, Fla.

Dear Bill,

No. But it’s easy to see how they can get jumbled up, as they’re all sulfur-related. Sulfites and sulfides are both sulfur compounds that have a relationship with wine, but sulfate—a salt of sulfuric acid—is not. Perhaps it would help you keep them straight to think that you might tempt “fate” if you ingest “sulfate,” as it is not meant for consumption.

Sulfites are naturally occurring compounds, found in all wines, that thankfully inhibit microbial growth. You may have noticed the “contains sulfites” note on wine labels, as a small percentage of folks have sulfite allergies, which give them asthma-like symptoms. Most winemakers add more sulfites to help prevent spoilage, though some wines are made without additional sulfites.

That leaves sulfides, which are volatile sulfur compounds. They’re a natural byproduct of fermentation and of certain winemaking practices, and while not harmful, they can contribute to reduced, rotten-egg-like aromas in a wine.

—Dr. Vinny


Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories