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November 2001

Chemical Reaction

While many enjoy a glass of fine wine, some may suffer from a number of adverse side effects. In addition to the many chemicals used in wine making—pesticides, preservatives, chlorinated corks—one antioxidant/preservative stands headaches above the rest: sulfites. A preservative not to be ignored, sulfites can result in severe allergic reactions and even death. When used in wine making, sulfites are added, in the form of sulfur salts or sulfur dioxide solution, to grape juice before it is fermented. In the United States, “contains sulfites” must be included on the label of any product that contains more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfiting agents. Most conventional (non-organic) wines contain 125–350 ppm per bottle. Though health officials stress that more than 40 milligrams of sulfites a day can produce side effects, it may be hard for wine lovers to follow the guidelines—one glass of wine contains approximately 40 mg. Although a number of organic vineyards produce “sulfite-free wines”, organic vintners warn those especially sensitive to sulfites that, because sulfur is inherent to grapes and is also produced naturally during fermentation, those wines do contain traces of sulfur. Sulfite-free wines are, often, not as full bodied as their sulfur-laced, organic counterparts. In addition, these unpreserved wines must be consumed within several days of being uncorked. For those who experience headaches from conventional wine—but are not at risk of severe allergic reactions or anaphylactic shock—organic wine may be the way to go. Many organic winemakers, wholesalers and retailers say that the majority of their customers, who suffer after drinking conventional wine, maintain that they have had no problems with organic wine. Boasting up to two-thirds less sulfites—some vintners claim their red wine varieties contain less than 10 ppm!—good organic wines are as flavorful and intricate as conventional ones. In fact, organic wines are awarded top prizes each year, among their conventional competitors. Learn more about the organic wines that are available in Bavaria at wholesaler Peter Riegel’s Several organic food chains in Munich offer a large selection of organic wine: Vollcorner, Dom Pedro Strasse 9b, Tel. (089) 12 73 84 80 and Arnulfstrasse 134, Tel. (089) 13 92 98 20 Erdgarten, Tengstrasse 31, Tel. (089) 271 91 52 Basic, Schleissheimerstrasse 160, Tel. 30 72 57 73 and Westenriederstrasse 35 (im Tal), Tel. (089) 24 20 89-0

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