I just went to the link Alphagene gave above, and you should go there. Now. Really. It’s a hoot. The last “expert” suggests drinking red wine at 30 degrees Celcius… 86 degrees Fahrenheit… and recommends MICROWAVING it to reach that temperature! (The editor does correct this and say that 17 degrees Celcius is much more appropriate.)
Actually, red wines have less sulfur dioxide added than whites. Most people who only drink white wine because “the sulfites in reds give them a headache” are actually getting a headache from the tannins and other polyphenols in red wine.
Edward: Is this historically true also? I thought it was the other way around at first.
I think US wines are required to carry a warning label listing the sulfite content. I’m not sure if this is a law, or just an “industry guideline”.
I don’t know about SO2 use historically. The Oregon Wine Advisory Board Sulfite FAQ states that in 1993 the EU permitted whites to have higher total sulfite levels than reds. Sounds as though before that whites had less than reds, or that they had the same. Even higher levels are permitted for sweet whites and roses to prevent bottle fermentation from the residual sugar. Left out of this equation is what the non-EU wine producers did, do, or are permitted to do. And that there is a maximum permissible level, but no minimum. Perhaps a lot of producers still add more SO2 to reds.
Oh, the same FAQ says the FDA requires producers to put a label on any food containing 10ppm or more of sulfites.