Can a coffee filter remove sulfites from wine?

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,

Can a coffee filter remove some of the sulfites from white wine?

—Pam, St. Clair Shores, Mich.

Dear Pam,

The short answer is “no,” but hopefully you’re up for a longer answer, because there is always a lot to untangle when it comes to questions about sulfites!

Sulfites are a natural byproduct of wine, and a part of many things we consume, like dried apricots, tortillas, blue cheese and molasses. Sometimes winemakers choose to add additional sulfites to the trace ones that naturally occur, as a way to help prevent wine from spoiling.

Unfortunately, about 1 percent of the population is sensitive to sulfites (this number goes up to 5 percent of asthma sufferers) and my heart goes out to them. Sulfite reactions sound scary, from wheezing to asthma-like attacks, and sometimes more severe reactions can include digestive issues, dizziness and difficulty swallowing. If you think you have a sulfite allergy, please get tested.

Because of how severe sulfite allergies can be, the U.S. government thought it would be helpful to require that wines with sulfites in excess of 10 parts per million get labeled with the “contains sulfites” disclaimer you’ve no doubt seen. Other countries don’t have that same labeling requirement, which does create some confusion as the same wine can carry the warning or not, depending on where it’s sold.

So, for medical reasons real and imagined, people seek out wines that don’t have the “contains sulfites” warning. Organic wines have “no added sulfites,” but they may still contain trace amounts of naturally-occurring sulfites.

So can you remove sulfites yourself? Coffee filters won’t do it, but there are products out there that use a specific type of polymer filter that can supposedly filter out some of the sulfites. But are you filtering enough of the sulfites out so you won’t have a reaction? Are you stripping the wine of any other flavors? You can also add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide, which will oxidize the sulfites and neutralize them. But does the hydrogen peroxide change the flavor of the wine? You really should consult with your physician to make sure you’re making the best choices for your health.

For people who don’t have a medical reason to avoid sulfites, please don’t blame sulfites for your hangovers or headaches. I worry that “sulfite-free” is the wine equivalent of “gluten free”—sounds healthy, but is only medically necessary for a select group of people.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Is it true that you can clean a red wine stain with white wine? What's the best way to clean a wine stain?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers some tried and true methods and advice for …

Jun 17, 2019

How long will an unopened bottle of Champagne stay good?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how sparkling wine ages.

Jun 14, 2019

Are sulfites added to wines for shipping?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains where sulfites come from, and why wines often …

Jun 12, 2019

When is the best time to drink Port?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains which types of Ports are best served after a …

Jun 10, 2019

Is a 93-point wine from a good vintage the same quality as a 93-point wine from a poor vintage?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how vintage is and is not considered when rating …

Jun 7, 2019

What is a wine’s "style"?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the broad styles, or types, of wine, and what it …

Jun 5, 2019




Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search