It’s bold, lush, silky, tart, oaky, smokey, fruity and floral. It can also cause some people massive headaches. We’re talking wine today.
Have you ever opened a bottle of Cabernet at home, maybe had a few glasses and woke up with a headache the next morning? Or maybe you were out with friends the night before, decided to have three glasses of a Tempranillo someone brought over and it was harder to wake up for work the next day? Or possibly you were just soaking up an afternoon in the sun enjoying a few glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, and woke up feeling congested the next day so you blamed it on allergies. It’s sulfites, some would say.
Well if it’s just one ingredient then it’s any easy fix right?
Grab a glass of wine if you’re into irony or your drink of choice and get cozy on your couch. Today we’re talking about how to remove sulfites from wine and testing it out to see if these accessories work or not!
What the Heck are Sulfites
Sulfites are simply a food preservative that wineries use to keep the flavor and the color of the wine longer. Without it, the shelf life of wine would be very short and we all know that most wines taste better with age so without the sulfites, it almost defeats the purpose, practice and patience of a good wine.
Television and the internet have deemed sulfites the enemy and reason for the wine headaches and next morning congestion. The FDA estimated that only 1% of the population are sensitive to sulfites and 5% of those people have asthma.
There are two types of sulfites, natural and added. Even in bottles of wine labeled “sulfite free”, there’s still a small amount sulfites. Natural sulfites cannot be avoided during the fermentation process and are a natural ingredient to wine. Wines like a rich Bordeaux from 1959 could not last without added sulfites, they would basically be vinegar by now.
Without the added sulfites we would be deprived of these luxuries and historic wines that we know and love.
So what’s this magical way to remove them?
I wouldn’t consider it magic in the sense of Harry Potter, it’s really just science!
I bought this spout aerator back in 2018 when I was really into bringing forth the natural flavor of wine. I’d been watching sommelier documentaries on Netflix and I was ready to become a classy lady and educate myself on the fine art of vino.
What exactly is an aerator?
Aerators are typically used when wine is served by the glass and most are designed for a quick rush of oxidization as the wine passes from the bottle, through the narrow funnel and into the glass. The traditional way of aerating wine is by swishing it in a circular motion after it’s been poured straight from the bottle into the glass. But beware, not all wines benefit from the aerating process. With white wines, it can actually make the taste worse.
So why do we aerate our wine?
Aerating your wine, simply put, is the process of adding oxygen back into the wine and letting it breathe before drinking it. Think of it in terms of after a long day we all enjoy stepping outside for a breath of fresh air. Well, so does your wine!
But back to the main question at hand, how does aerating your wine remove sulfites?
There’s quite the disagreement between wine connoisseurs on whether aerating your wine removes sulfites or not. In my research, I found it pretty 50/50 that people either believe most aerators contain the capability to remove sulfites while others stand by their very hard no’s.
Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion on the matter but here is what I found from science!
So we know aerating wine adds oxygen which can enhance or completely ruin your wine, but aerating not only oxidizes, it also evaporates some chemical makeup of the wine.
This is where we get excited about science!
By aerating the wine and activating the evaporation process, the sulfites are reduced which can lead to less of that red wine headache! I’m sure some will still argue that this is inaccurate, but I’m leaving it up to science.
If you try the Vintorio Wine Aerator and find it unsuccessful in reducing your headaches and sinuses, at least you have tastier wine!
What exactly is a decanter?
A decanter, in laymen’s terms, is a large aerator. Where a spout aerator, like the Vintorio Wine Aerator, is great for when you’re pouring yourself a glass of wine, a decanter is popularly used for when you’re opening a bottle with company.
Or for yourself, who am I to judge!
Why do we decant our wine?
Most decanters like the Le Chateau, are shaped with an angled lip, a narrow neck and a wide bottom. The angled lip and narrow neck are designed for an easy pour into the decanter. This helps for more air to flow into the wine as it travels to the bottom of the decanter. The wide bottom is designed for the wine to breathe in a larger surface area for a longer period of time so that it can interact with more oxygen than it normally would from just opening a bottle and pouring it directly into the wine glass.
Something important to note is that decanting really only works with older wines. So if you’re drinking a younger wine, I’d stick with the aerator. Decanting a younger wine won’t ruin it, but it only needs to oxidize for about 20 minutes.
So basically what I’m getting at is the purpose of decanting is to pour your wine that’s already in a perfectly good bottle, into another vessel that you will use to pour it into your wine glass.
But how does that remove sulfites?
At first glance it seems like a pointless extra step, but here’s why it’s not.
Real quick, back to why we decant our wine, if you’re wanting to use your decanter you should plan ahead. Most wine is stored on its side for days, months, years and even decades! It’s going to need more than just a breath of fresh air. It needs to stretch first.
So pick your finely aged vino the night before and sit it upright on the counter or table. Then for the next day, whether you’re serving this wine for you, you and a friend or a gathering of people, you should decant the wine up to 3 hours before serving.
That seems a little extra, Haley.
And I won’t tell you you’re wrong. Decanting wine is a more involved process, but you’re looking to reduce sulfites right? Remember, a decanter is just a large aerator and works well with older wines. The evaporation process is exactly the same as the spout aerator, but because it’s activated in a larger surface area it still reduces the sulfites, it just takes a little longer!
Decanters are a really elegant way to serve your finer wines. They’re also an excellent way to appreciate all the hard work and science that goes into creating a memorable vintage vino.
So between aerators and decanters it really just depends on whether your wine is red or white, aged or young and whether you want it by the glass or a whole bottle!
What is the Wine Wand?
The Wine Wand is probably the most popular invention when it comes to removing sulfites from wine. It’s made of a recyclable wand with a filter that claims to remove 95% of the histamines and sulfites. It’s portable and disposable meaning it’s convenient enough to take and use it pretty much anywhere.
How do you use the Wine Wand?
You simply pour your glass of wine, suggested 6oz but who’s measuring, and swirl your wand around. It starts to work instantly but allow for 3 minutes so it can purify the wine. Some reviews say they have left it for up to 8 minutes and have noticed a bigger difference.
I tried these wands a couple of months ago but did not notice much of a difference. I don’t have asthma and have never seen a huge reaction from sulfites in my body, but my partner who does have asthma also reported no difference.
But don’t let that stop you from trying them!
They have thousands of reviews and many people claim that these wands are the best thing to happen since sliced bread. Maybe you can even aerate your wine first with either the spout or the decanter and then use your wine wand to remove extra sulfites.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried this before!
What is the Üllo purifier?
The Üllo Wine Purifier is one of the most reviewed wine accessories that I’ve come across. It’s rated the #1 Best Seller on Amazon for wine accessories with over 1,000 reviews. It’s one of the biggest known aerators for wine that doubles as a sulfite remover, unlike our Vintorio where we had to refer back to science.
This aerator/purifier can be used on both white and red wines. There is a setting where you can twist for air on or off. For reds, let the air flow through to enhance the flavor and for whites, leave the air off to maintain the bright fruity and floral notes.
So how does the Üllo work and how does it remove sulfites?
The Üllo purifier is like if an aerator and the Wine Wand had a baby. The Üllo fits perfectly on top of any wine glass and inside of the Üllo is a removable filter, much like the filter in the Wine Wand. What’s really nice about the Üllo is the filter lasts through an entire bottle where the Wine Wand recommends throwing away after each glass.
The Üllo also fits on most decanters! In my opinion, this makes the filter inside of the Üllo aerator more intriguing vs the Wine Wand considering the Üllo filter can handle a whole bottle and the Wine Wand should be disposed after one glass.
Let’s compare the Wine Wand to the Üllo for a second!
Of course with the Wine Wand you can buy a bigger pack to save about $1.84 per glass, but if you like to drink wine and want to avoid the headaches the Üllo sounds like the better option to me.
I recommended the Üllo aerator to my aunt and she immediately bought it excited to use it. My partner and I visited and again, I don’t get the headaches from wine too often so I didn’t notice a difference other than the flavor of wine from the aeration!
So Does It Really Work?
Where we had to refer to science to prove it’s possible for aerators and decanters, the Wine Wand and Üllo were designed to reduce sulfites. Again, because sulfites are part of the base chemical makeup of any vino, they’re never completely gone. But did you know there’s plenty of foods that contain more sulfur than your wine?
Foods like dried fruits, meats like deli slices and sausage, fish, commercially prepared dough and much more.
There’s also many other components in wine like histamines and tannins that are known to cause headaches for some people. The type of grape can also make a huge difference and can affect everyone differently.
So is it the sulfites that cause the headaches? That theory is still unclear and up in the air.