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The evening was fun and festive, and the wines flowed, but the morning after brought throbbing pain in the head and the dreaded red wine headache. You vow to never touch the stuff again and to shun any beverage containing sulfites.

What does that mean for your wine consumption? You've just zeroed it out because most wines – red, rosé and white – contain sulfites, either through the natural process of fermentation or by adding sulfites. However, all is not lost, as low-sulfite wines and wines without sulfites are making a name for themselves as consumers become more health conscious.

If the label reads "contains sulfites," then the preservative has been added somewhere between the vineyard and the bottling. Look for bottles containing the letters NSA, meaning "no sulfites added," and your headache woes may be over. However, your headache was most likely caused by the tannins in the wine and not necessarily the sulfites, but that's another topic.

Low-Sulfite Wine: Red

Chemically known as sulfur dioxide, sulfites are everywhere: in your food, in your beverages and in wine. Unless you like drinking very young wine, the bottle of red for which you've just paid a lot of money has sulfites added. It's a preservative but also an anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial. It keeps your wine fresh as it ages in the bottle.

Low-sulfite or no-sulfite reds include:

  1. Coturri Winery's Carignane: No pesticides, fungicides or herbicides and absolutely no added sulfites mark this Sonoma Valley wine as a dominant factor in naturally produced wine.

  2. Domaine Marcel LaPierre Morgon Beaujolais: Pioneering the natural wine movement, the domaine, now in the hands of sons and grandsons of the founders, continues to use natural fermentation and processing to produce NSA wines. It is pricey but worth a try.

  3. Badger Mountain: Cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and merlot are produced at this organic winery located in Columbia Valley, Washington.

  4. Spartico Spanish Cabernet: Spain's answer to the organic movement, the tempranillo grape blends with Spanish cabernet for a medium-bodied red. 

Low-Sulfite Wine: White

The amount of sulfites in a wine is highly regulated depending on the country of origin, with the European Union leading the pack with the lowest amount of sulfites allowed. Curiously, white wine has more sulfites than red due to the tannins in the red acting as a preservative. For low-sulfite or sulfite-free wine, get it young (under 18 months old) and local.

  1. Frey Vineyards: The first American winery to be completely organic, gluten free and vegan, the winery is recovering from a devastating wildfire that leveled much of the facility. Located in Mendocino County, California, they have been producing organic wines since 1980. Fruity chardonnays and dry pinots are just some of the wines they produce.

  2. Stellar Winery: Their South African roots yield organic and vegan sauvignon blanc and chardonnay plus a full line of reds and rosés.

  3. Terre des Chardons: From the largest wine-producing department in France, the Languedoc-Roussilion, Terre des Chardon's whites and rosés

    have commanded awards at international tastings. 

Low-Sulfite Wine: Rosé

While most rosés contain a high level of sulfites, a few wineries do produce the pink deliciousness with little or no additives.

  1. Domaine d'Anglas: They produce a rosé that's organic and that uses the grapes' own yeast in the fermentation. A product of the Herault department in the south of France and the Languedoc just south of the department, the domaine prides itself on its organic approach to wine.

  2. Usual Wines: Just "grapes, sunshine and water" is how Usual wines describes its rosés and reds. Available online and for home delivery, the red was harvested in 2015 and the rosé

    in 2018. Both are sold in 6.3-ounce bottles.

    3. Tampesta Golan Roasdo: This Spanish rosé

    is made from the dark prieto picudo grape. It's harvested in the northern region of Spain and processed with little sulfites. All the production is vegan. 

Notes on Pouring

Drinking a wine that's produced with little or no sulfites requires a modification in pouring. Most wineries suggest decanting them prior to serving, allowing the air to settle the flavors. If a decanter isn't available, pour it into a glass with a wide, open surface to let the air do its work.

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About the Author

Jann Seal

My seventh grade English teacher didn't realize what she was unleashing when she called me her "writer," but the word crept into my brain. I DID become a writer. Of advertising copy, dialogue and long-term story for several network soap operas, magazine articles and high-calorie contents for the cookbook: Cooking: It AIn't Rocket Science, a bestseller on Amazon! When I'm not writing, I'm cooking!