Üllo: Why the wine sulfites & headaches myth never dies…

So as is typically the case, the claim was framed as such: “A wine filter that will make your pinot noir headaches disappear” and as always, the claim was most assuredly not true.

This quote is from a post wherein the author espouses her love of the “Üllo Wine Purifier”. While a very recent post, the device is nothing new. Also not new is debunking its usefulness as this article from 2015 does nicely:

“…if you react to sulfites, you react to a lot of foods other than wine, you’re probably a severe asthmatic, and you’ll know. There’s nothing wrong with a tool to remove sulfites per se, but it contributes to this whole myth of their being a good reason why the Ordinary Wine Consumer would want to.”

It feels like every week I get a question about sulfites (no, not “sulfates”) during tastings I lead as it seems there are those with an unrelenting commercial interest in promoting that they’re “bad” and conflating them with hangovers or headaches from wine. I view these people in the same light as climate change deniers or antivaxers. Thankfully, trying to sell a worthless gadget via false claims only wastes money and doesn’t put our entire planet and population in peril, respectively.

Let’s get a couple of things factually straight however. This first and most important is: you actually want sulfites in your wine! Think of them as a refrigerator for meat or washing vegetables for salad with clean water. We have sulfites because we aren’t living in caves and dying of Oregon Trail diseases anymore–or at least we shouldn’t be.

Sure, natural wine types claim sulfites are evil, but if they aren’t in a wine, it easily spoils with other, unpleasant bacteria flourishing that cause you problems above and beyond that headache which, come on people, is actually called a “hangover”. And that’s really the crux of it in that if sulfites are causing you pain, those raisins at the top of the article are going to cause you even more pain if you eat them. Oh, dried fruit and canned foods don’t give you a “wine headache”? Well guess what, you don’t have a problem with sulfites as those food items have considerably more than wine.

Basically it works like this: you pour your wine through the filter, and it filters out sulfates and sediments so it helps rid you of wine headaches (which are the worst, btw).

Again, while we don’t fully understand hangovers, the general consensus is that it’s due to cellular dehydration and that’s what’s causing your headache and muscles to ache. The fix to this isn’t some filter that’s being passed around social media circles but to a) drink less and b) drink more water. It still won’t fully fix the problem as alcohol is, as much as we don’t want to admit it, a poison, but it will help to reduce the effects.

And I suppose, in this age of having a president of the US who tweets truthiness daily, seeing, “But bottom line? THIS THING WORKS.” in this “Hello Giggles” article is beyond frustrating as this is the most casual of observations paired with the most unqualified of observers. And, if there is some commercial interest in this promotional-seeming post which is undisclosed, then it’s unethical as well. But this is why the myth persists as it’s constantly slipped into otherwise innocuous places where people read it and take it as gospel: “sounds true, so it must be true”.

There could easily be something in red wine giving you that headache above and beyond the alcohol, but it’s almost assuredly not sulfites. Maybe it’s a chemical stabilizer or an extraction agent or a colorant or a fining agent or… the list goes on. There’s scads that goes into wine production that isn’t listed on the bottle which could be affecting you. Does this ridiculous Üllo remove all of these other compounds as well? Oh, it doesn’t? Well then, may I suggest an option that’s the most filtered, pure wine of all and will make you feel great? I call it “water”. Patent pending.