Does natural wine contain sulfites?
Unfortunately, there is no way around sulfites as all wine contains some degree of sulfites. Sulfites is a chemical compound that is a natural byproduct of wine fermentation. To preserve wine freshness/composition for longer, winemakers will usually add sulfites on top of the naturally occurring sulfites when they feel naturally occurring ones are not sufficient to keep the wine fresh.
Now, sulfites are generally fine for 99% of the population. In addition, sulfites may not be the only thing contributing to reactions for some when drinking wine - things like alcohol levels, residual sugar, histamines, and potential garnered from unidentified wine additives are also known to give some sensitivity to drinking wine.
Additional sulfites brought on by the winemaker is quite a large topic of discussion in the world of natural wine. There are winemakers that add extremely small quantities of additional sulfites to keep wine stable after being bottled in the cellar. Other winemakers in the natural wine world are completely against adding sulfites.
The loose definition of natural wine does not necessarily call for absolutely no sulfites allowed being added. The US Department of Agriculture calls has a limit on how much additional sulfites can be added (up to 350 ppm). Natural wine community has come to a general agreement that up to 75ppm sulfites added is considered sufficient. There are winemakers that swear by no additionally added sulfites and believe wine can never be spoiled if the farming and winemaking processes are carefully planned and carried out. This takes skill and passion.
With that, natural wine is a wild, living organism in the bottle that can easily evolve and re-ferment. Even if all things go accordingly all the way up to bottling, there is no telling what a living organism may or may not do when undisturbed in the bottle. Naturally occuring sulfites sometimes may not be sufficient to keep bottle fresh over extended period of storage.
We believe extremely extremely small quantities of additional sulfites (even less than that 75ppm threshold mentioned for natural wine) when necessary in the winemaking process to preserve wine is OK, but we also support winemakers that add no sulfites because like we said, it takes skill and passion to make that kind of wine!