The term sulphites is an inclusive term for sulphur dioxide (SO2), a preservative that’s widely used in winemaking (and across the food industry), used primarily for its antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

The amount of sulphites that a wine can contain is highly regulated around the world. Any wine containing more than 10 mg/l (or ppm, parts per million) of S02 must affix to the label the reference words ‘contains sulphites’.

SO2 plays an important role in preventing oxidization and maintaining a wine’s freshness, and since the winemaker has very little control over the wine’s storage conditions from the time the wine leaves his winery, SO2 is almost always a necessity used to help guarantee that the bottle of wine you open will be in the exact condition the winemaker intended.

The maximum levels allowed by the EU are 150 mg/l in dry reds, 200 mg/l in dry whites and rosés, 235 mg/l in sparkling wines, and 250 mg/l in sweet white and rosé wines.

Maximum levels for dry wines outside Europe are generally 350 mg/l in the US, 300 mg/l in Chile, 250 mg/l in Australia, 130-180 mg/l in Argentina and 150-160 mg/l in South Africa.

Considering that dried fruits can have levels equivalent to 1000 mg/l, if you regularly eat dried fruit without any adverse reactions, then you are probably not allergic to sulphites.

Are Organic Wines Better?

Many wine producing countries (USA, Chile, Australia, South Africa) have already established standards for organic wines, and the EU has also standardised legislation with regard to the organic winemaking. Organic wine must of course be produced using organic grapes, however Sulphites can also be added, but at a much lower level than regular wine. The new EU approved ranges for S02 content in organic wines must be: less than 100 mg/l for dry reds, 150 mg/l for whites and rosés, and 220 mg/l for most sweet wines.

Additionally in the US you will find more wines labeled ‘made from organically grown grapes’ as opposed to labeled as true ‘organic wine’, because in the US ‘organic wine’ must not have any added SO2.

Are Sulphite-Free Wines Better?

Sulphite-free wines refer to a style of winemaking where no additional sulphites have been added during the winemaking process, and technically these are termed as “No Added Sulphite” or “Natural Wines”.

Red wines without any SO2 will usually have a much shorter shelf life and need to be kept in perfect cool storage conditions. White wines are even more prone to oxidation and the development of aldehyde off-odours, so adding SO2 is particularly important, and for this reason white wine will usually contain much more Sulphites than red.

In reality, totally 100% sulphite-free wines do NOT exist. There is always a tiny quantity of naturally occurring sulphites in every wine resulting from the yeast metabolism during fermentation. However, the levels are very low and they are harmless, and usually under a level of 10 mg/l.

“Sulphite-Free” wine is more of a marketing gimmick, as the naturally occurring sulphites would have to be removed using a chemical extraction process, and the wine would no longer be a “natural wine”.


On your Ronda Wine Tour, you will taste at wineries that use the minimum of sulphites (usually around 20-40 mg/l) and even produce “No Added Sulphite” wines (less than 10 mg/l).