Ask Wine Wizard

Can you tell me what all those chemicals that come with wine kits are for and if it’s necessary to use them?


Alan Brown — Harrodsburg, Kentucky asks,

Since I couldn’t find fresh grapes, I decided to try a wine kit. The wine turned out pretty well, but the problem is that after my wife drinks about half a glass of it, she starts getting a headache. I was wondering if you could tell me what all those chemicals that come with the kits (sulfite, sorbate, bentonite, kieselsol) are for and if it’s necessary to use them?

Wine Wizard replies: Your question is complex. In fact, it could lead to pages upon pages of response if I elucidated upon “all those chemicals” (and many of them are not really chemicals) that come in the majority of wine kits. Over the years, wine kits have had any number of additives, preservatives and fermentatives included in the package, not all of which are compatible for everyone who ingests them. Individuals who lack the digestive enzyme sulfide oxidase should not ingest anything containing sulfites, such as wine, processed meats or dried apricots. Only about 0.001 percent of the population lacks this enzyme and most individuals who have this problem already know to shy away from such foodstuffs. In America, sulfites are required to be listed on the label as an ingredient. In the correct amounts, sulfites are safe for the majority of the wine (and sausage, cheese and fruit-consuming) public. Even though a kit might contain unfamiliar ingredients, there really isn’t anything that is going to make you sick, if used according to the manufacturer’s directions. All of those little
Response by Alison Crowe.