Sulfite Removal by Decanting Wine

A visitor writes: We heard that if you are allergic to sulfites you can do two things to allow you to drink wine with out a reaction: drink wine that has aged for at least ten years, or to decant the wine three times to be done by someone other than the allergic person.

This sounds like an urban myth for many reasons.

To begin with, sulfites are a natural substance found in all grapes. It's therefore found in all wines. Many winemakers add MORE sulfites to help their wine age. If you really wanted a low sulfite wine, you should drink the organic wines that are made without additional sulfites and drink them quickly, because they will go bad quickly without those additional sulfites. The last thing you should be doing is drinking wines that are meant to age.

But on to the urban myth.

First, the only wines that should ever need decanting are older wines. Decanting a young wine would have absolutely no effect because there is nothing to decant. Not decanting an older wine would (for most 10+ yr old wines) have you drink sludge. So let's say that the "meaning" behind those restrictions is that you "must drink a 10 year + old wine that has been decanted 3 times".

Decanting is all about pouring off the "good" wine and leaving behind the sediment. Sediment in wine is mostly caused by the tannins in the skins of red wine grapes that settle to the bottom of the bottle as the years go on. Sediment only forms after several years of sitting.

So you now have a 10+ year old bottle of wine. You carefully remove the bottle from the rack and let it stand on its bottom for 12 hours so all the sediment slowly drifts to the bottom of the bottle. You then carefully decant it, or pour all the "clear wine" from the bottle into a new container. You leave the "sludge" behind in the original bottle.

Now you have clear wine in the new container. What would decanting it a second time - into a new container - do at this point? Certainly the wine wouldn't have sludge immediately forming on the bottom of the new container already. The liquid in the new container is pretty much mixed from the pouring. If you wanted to let it sit for another 12 hours to see if SOME sludge was left behind to settle out, you now would have ruined the wine by having it sit opened for 12 hours. Even if you corked it, air was introduced in the decanting process and especially for an older wine that would ruin it easily in only a few hours. And that would only be for 2 decantings. A third decanting on a bottle of wine 10 or more years old would be like stabbing it through the heart many times with a wooden stake before giving it a sip.

If anything, I would highly recommend that people truly sensitive to sulfites drink YOUNG eco-wines that were made without additional sulfites. But first I would have them eat a few foods that are high in sulfites, like dried apricots and such, to make sure it is really the *sulfites* they are having trouble with. Many people blame their wine reactions on sulfites, when really they have trouble with the alcohol or other impurities found in some cheap wines.

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All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.