If you have ever suffered a mild flushing, swelling of the face or rhinitis after you drink wine or find that the next day you feel you’ve imbibed the bottle when you’ve only had a glass, you may have an intolerance to sulfites, a preservative that is added to most wines. The Üllo Wine Purifier – a filter that you pour the wine through – promises to remove most of those sulfites so you can enjoy a glass of wine without discomfort.
Sulfites are widely used as a preservative and antioxidant in wine to keep it fresh and make it last longer and while they don’t cause a problem for most people, some people experience a reaction. For those people who suffer a mild case of chemical sensitivity and find that even drinking the odd glass of wine causes a reaction you can now filter out sulfites by pouring a glass or bottle of wine through the Üllo Wine Purifier while aerating the wine at the same time. The Üllo is made from a food-grade, porous acrylic polymer which when activated, captures free sulfites in a glass or bottle of wine.
The Üllo Wine Purifier costs £69.99 sterling (under €79) plus post and packing and four wine filters are included. Each filter works for one bottle though you can filter a single glass, then rinse the filter under running water and pop it in the fridge and use it the next day. It’s worth buying extra filters at the same time (10 filters costs £29.99 – about €34). It only works with still wine, not Champagne, Prosecco or sparkling wines. The cup that holds the filter sits comfortably in a glass and the process also aerates the wine as it drips through. The cup can be washed in the dishwasher, and you can also buy a carafe or a swish handblown glass decanter with a purifier in situ and 6 filters.
The best way to test whether the Üllo filter works for you is to test it on wine that you had a problem with previously.
What are the clues that you may have a sulfite intolerance?
We can only speak from our own experience.
– If your cheeks redden or swell shortly after drinking wine (it may be one side or both) it may be a sulfite reaction.
– If you find yourself wheezing and coughing (especially if you are prone to asthma) then this could be a reaction to sulfites.
– If you feel fatigued the day after drinking wine for no reason (this can be partly because your immune system is fighting what it thinks is an intruder, eg the sulfites, and/or because the sulfites cause rhinitis symptoms which narrow the airways and you don’t breathe properly while you are asleep).
– By filtering the wine to remove the sulfites you at least remove the possibility of it being the cause of discomfort.
While a reaction to sulfites in wine is not common, for those of us wine lovers who experience it, it’s a real dampener. You spend your time choosing wines you think will be ‘cleaner’ like natural or organic wines. They can be hard to find and your choice is limited.
You can’t enjoy the benefit of wine bundling at your favourite wine shop because even though the price of two bottles is cheaper than buying one, it’s still not worth the risk because you may not be able to drink the second bottle if you get a reaction to the first one you open.
When you go to a corporate event or a wedding you sometimes have to discretely buy a glass of wine at the bar that you know won’t cause a reaction to avoid the risk of drinking a wine you don’t know much about.
You often have to avoid the house wine in restaurants and go up in price in the hope that you get a better winemaker who has used less sulfites (though price is not always a guarantee but you become kind of desperate and will try anything).
And no matter what people say to you or how sympathetic they appear, they really think you are just making it up to be different. You get lumped in with the delicate eaters; with those people who put their bloated tummies down to an intolerance to wheat instead of over-eating; and worst of all, with people who insist loudly in restaurants while reading the menu that they can’t eat ten obscure ingredients.
We found that filtering the sulfites out of the wine using a wine purifier helped, but each case is different. If you have a problem with drinking wine, and want to enjoy it again without experiencing symptoms, it’s worth trying a filter to see if that solves your problem – if your symptoms are severe, for example if you find yourself wheezing or getting short of breath you need to go to an immunologist and get a diagnosis and stop drinking or eating anything that may contain sulfites.
Doesn’t everyone have an intolerance or allergy now?
At a time when everyone seems to have an intolerance or allergy to something – wheat, dairy, gluten – even though they have not been diagnosed with it, it’s worth considering the people who have a genuine problem.
A 2012 study on the adverse reactions to the sulphite additives found that ‘although it is generally agreed that between 3 and 10% of adult asthmatics may exhibit adverse reactions to the sulphite additives, with a number of these individuals experiencing life-threatening reactions. It is important to note that a number of individuals experience an array of symptoms following exposure to the sulphites; thus, skin, intestinal and respiratory reactions may occur simultaneously, and in various combinations and severities.’
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