The Sulfite Allergy

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The sulfite allergy that keeps many people out of the wine cellar. By Lauren Samson
7-17-2011

Many people are cursed by the soul-damaging allergy to sulfites, why so damaging to one’s soul? Simple, they are missing out on one of God’s greatest gifts; wine! Most wine in today’s society contains sulfur, and even back in the “old world” style of wine making, sulfur was also used. Depending on the severity of the allergy or condition, there are some people that cannot consume sulfites, not even in wine! Sulfur can benefit a wine in many ways, and prevent any elements that may taint a wine, although some argue that sulfur can damage a wines design and that natural fermentation is good when used alone. Sulfur is not only used in wines, but many other foods and beverages to help preserve or stop fermentation, so many ask the question why or how does this sulfite allergy develop? Is it hereditary? Or what can be done to over-come this allergy? Studies have been going on for many years trying to figure out why, like most other allergies, people develop such reactions. The following paragraphs will explain in detail this dilemma, and discuss the issues and arguments on the topic. The first topic to explain; what exactly is sulfur? Sulfur is an element that actually has been discovered since ancient times, and is one of the most bountiful elements found on this earth, it was discovered before it actually was put on the element chart but a woman named Antoine Lavoisier was convincing enough to the scientific committee to allow this to happen (“Education”). Sulfur is not a single compound but made of many other ordinary minerals like; galena (PbS), gypsum (CaSO4·2(H2O), pyrite (FeS2), sphalerite (ZnS or FeS), cinnabar (HgS), stibnite (Sb2S3), epsomite (MgSO4·7(H2O)), celestite (SrSO4) and barite (BaSO4) (Education). Most sulfur that is generated today is acquired from underground settlings, commonly found right next to salt deposits in a method called “Frasch” process (“Education”). Out of all the allotropic forms sulfur can be made into, the one form usually used in foods and wine is Sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is produced by burning sulfur in the air (“Education”). This burning of sulfur is what turns the SO2 into a gas. Sulfur is usually colorless and nonflammable but has an intense odor that can be recognized by most in the food and wine industry (“Specgas”). Sulfur dioxide is harmful if consumed in large doses by anyone, creating inching eyes, aggravated lungs, or in worse cases if ingested bronchitis (“Sulfur”). Although, those individuals who have a specific sulfite allergy conditions when exposed may be worse. So why use sulfur dioxide in consumable products? Sulfur dioxide is used in many commercial food products in today’s society. It is mainly used as a preservative for perishable foods such as fruits and vegetables. Sulfur dioxide is also widely used as a sterilizer in storehouses, breweries, food factories or wineries in the U.S and other countries (“Sulfur”). In wine specifically, sulfur (SO2) is found naturally! During the fermentation process, small amounts of sulfur dioxide can be found from the yeast in the grapes (“Aroma”), but most of the sulfur found in wine today is placed there by the producer. The use of sulfites is very important in the modern world of wine making. Sulfites play a vital role in fighting infections that may develop from yeast, mold, or dirty equipment, like film yeast (also none as flor) or vinegar bacteria (“Wine”). Film yeast is common in grapes that contain high amounts of nutrients like Native American grape varietals; it is basically layers of different species of wild wine-developed yeast such as Brettanomyces, or Candida (“Wine”). Flor is easily controlled by the adding of sulfur dioxide. The antioxidant properties of sulfur dioxide react with the PH levels of the wine, and with that said, higher PH leveled wines require higher amounts of sulfur dioxide to keep in a...
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