Are sulfites added to wines for shipping?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Are sulfites added to wines for shipping? Like an Italian red wine being shipped to the U.S.?

—Dorthea, Fairfield, Conn.

Dear Dorthea,

I’ve never heard of a winery adding sulfites only to the wines being shipped to one country or another. Sulfites are a naturally occurring byproduct of fermentation, and most winemakers also add additional sulfites to protect wine against oxidation and bacterial spoilage.

But the same wine sold here in the United States will have a label mentioning the sulfites in wine while the same wine in Italy will not. That’s because wherever a wine is sold, it has to adhere to the laws of that country. And here in the U.S., labeling laws require the mention of sulfites, while they are not required in other parts of the world. So there isn’t a different set of wines sold here and abroad, just the same wines with two different labels.

Only about 1 percent of the population is sulfite-sensitive (that number goes up among asthma sufferers). There are some serious reactions to sulfites, including hives and respiratory problems, but they are not to blame for the headaches and hangovers that some wine lovers experience. Definitely talk to your real doctor if you have concerns about a sulfite allergy, as there are sulfites in many types of foods including dried fruit and molasses.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny Allergies Health Winemaking Techniques Explained

More In Dr. Vinny

How should I organize a white Burgundy vs. California Chardonnay tasting?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny suggests some tips for hosting a blind tasting and …

Aug 23, 2019

Why are wines from volcanic soils so good?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why certain soil types encourage desirable …

Aug 21, 2019

Why do we pair white wine with fish and red wine with red meat?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers some tips on making a food and wine match sing.

Aug 19, 2019

How can I preserve an intentionally wine-stained shirt?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the pros and cons of using red wine as a fabric …

Aug 16, 2019

What exactly does it mean that a wine can express "terroir"? Is it a smell? A taste?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the elusive concept and expression of terroir.

Aug 14, 2019

What is the ideal "total acidity" for Cabernet Sauvignon?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains total acidity, and how it interacts with other …

Aug 12, 2019




Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search