Can a wine aerator remove sulfites? What about tannins?
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 wine aerator remove sulfites? What about tannins? And if someone is allergic to sulfites or tannins, is it safe for them to drink wine that has been “aerated”?
—Patricia, Suisun City, Calif.
No, your run-of-the-mill wine aerator does not remove sulfites (or tannins), it just lets the wine go on a speed date with oxygen, which can help bring out the wine’s aromas.
Before we go any further, this is the part where I point out that sulfite and tannin sensitivities are very rare, and both sulfites and tannins are naturally occurring in wine. They’re supposed to be there! Winemakers do often introduce additional sulfites to prevent bacterial growth, and somehow the fact that wine bottles are required to carry the “contains sulfites” notice in the United States has led many people to believe that their headaches, rashes, hangovers and bad luck are all caused by these microscopic natural preservatives. And yet no one ever complains about the "sulfite headaches" they get from eating dried fruit, or fresh-caught shrimp, or pickles, or maple syrup, or mushrooms, or cheese ….
You may have heard of wine aerators whose makers claim that their product can “purify” wine by removing sulfites with a polymer-based filter, but we haven’t found any evidence to support those claims. And yep, we’ve both blind taste–tested samples of wine before and after being “purified” and sent “purified” and untreated samples of the same wine to an independent lab for verification, yielding inconclusive results.