A lot of people say they can’t drink wine because the sulfites give them a headache. Some wine experts, though, contend the sulfites-headache connection is a myth.
Most recently, Karen MacNeil, author of "The Wine Bible," wrote an article in the January issue of Sunset magazine about it. She said research shows an estimated 1 percent of people are allergic to sulfites. And Daniel Sogg in the Wine Spectator Online (Feb. 19, 2003) wrote that it affects only a tiny number of asthmatics, or less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the population.
All wine contains a small amount of sulfites, because they’re a natural byproduct of fermentation. Most wines have added sulfites, but so do other foods. Sogg wrote that sulfites also are used as a preservative in fruit juices, dried fruit, fried potatoes and pickled foods.
One way to see if sulfites bother you is to drink organic wines, which have no added sulfites and are grown without using pesticides. (Watch out, though: Wines labeled "made with organic grapes" may still add sulfites, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)
Three readily available organics are Kokopelli, made here in Arizona, and Frey Vineyards and Lolonis Wi nes, both from California.
Kokopelli Winery in downtown Chandler has a sweet red blend, aptly called Sweet Lucy, that’s a popular choice for people who aren’t used to drinking heavy, dry reds. It’s $9. Their restaurant and tasting room also carry an extensive list of other wines.
Frey produces all the basics like chardonnay and cabernet, which are available at Sprouts in Chandler, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley for about $7 to $10.
Lolonis Wines are available through wine shops like Village Wine Cellar in Scottsdale and others. They cost about $20 to $33 for their regular line (not their private reserve bottlings). I recently tried their chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and petite sirah and found them to be well-balanced with soft finishes.
If you try organic wines and still get a headache, you might have a sensitivity to tannins. They are the compounds that come from the grapes’ skins, seeds and stems, and are what makes your tongue get that fuzzy, dry feeling. Tannins are much more prevalent in red wines than in whites.
Read more about organic wines and sulfites on the Frey Web site at www.frey.com.