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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Dr. Vino's Verdict

Don't Fear the Sulfites

Ever wondered where the experts stand on the best wine practices and controversies? In this series, wine blogger, teacher and author Tyler Colman (a. k. a. Dr. Vino) delivers a final judgement.

Don’t you think the risks posed by sulfites in wine are completely overblown? You’re right. Wines do contain the compounds, but they're not the reason you feel sick the day after overindulging. Sulfite reactions are both rare and severe; they include anaphylaxis, not a hangover. If you're still in doubt, here's a test: If you can eat five dried apricots without any adverse effects, then you don’t have a sulfite allergy. So, what's with the warning on the bottle? The intention of the phrase “contains sulfites” on wine labels was originally “not to inform but to frighten,” writes Thomas Pinney, in his book A History of Wine in America, Volume 2. Anti-alcohol lobbyists were trying to scare people away from wine in the 1970s and ’80s, and they found their man in Washington in the form of Strom Thurmond. The senator fought for the legislation that required the language. Of course, dried apricots don’t have warnings—because there's no anti-dried fruit lobby.

Related: More from Dr. Vino
Fantastic Australian Wine Values
How Wine Labels Lie About Alcohol

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