Sulfates vs Sulfites
What Are Sulfites?
Sulfites are a naturally occuring compound that nature uses to prevent microbial growth. They are found on grapes, onions, garlic, and on many other growing plants. No wine can ever be "sulfite free", since they come in with the grapes.
The easy way to see if sulfites are a problem are for you is to eat a food high in natural sulfites - say, dried apricots. On average, 2oz of dried apricots have 10 times the sulfites as a glass of wine does. If you eat those apricots and have a reaction, now you know it's time to talk with a doctor.
What are Sulfates?
Sulfates (with an A instead of an I) are sulfur-related wastes that can poison water when they are flushed into the system by industry or homes. Steel mills and textile plants are often offenders of sulfate dumping. Sulfates are NOT added to wines.
So where sulfites are a normal food preservative, used for thousands of years, sulfates are unhealthy contaminants.
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Many thanks to Dr. Kristina Lazzari and Dr. Tony Lazzari at the Cape Cod Winery for their assistance with this article.
Caveat: I am not a doctor ... for detailed answers about how wine will affect you personally given your medical condition and lifestyle, contact your family physician