The Basics Bar Tools

Do Wine-Purifying Products Actually Prevent Headaches?

The Wand wind purifier. Image: Pure Wine Inc.

Everyone has that friend who claims they can’t drink reds because they give them a headache. Or they only drink wine from Europe as “it’s purer and not made with sulfites.” Newsflash: Sulfites are pretty much indispensable in viniculture, used by producers all around the world to halt fermentation, kill microbes, make releases more age-worthy and perform other tasks in the cellar.

Even if a winemaker doesn’t add sulfites, some level will still end up in a bottle as they’re a byproduct of yeast metabolizing. And remember that dried fruit can actually have upwards of 10 times the amount, and no one seems to complain of a raisin sensitivity. The jury is still out on whether or not sulfites cause some to get headaches after drinking wine. (The more logical explanation for most people is over-imbibing without drinking enough water.)

Still, there are oenophiles who claim sulfites the source of their head-throbbing woes. Enter these products, which remove sulfites and may even smooth out tannins, aerate bottles, take out pesky sediment and make vino more enjoyable for all.

Note: The sulfite level on a glass of wine after sampling these products was not measured, as commercial test strips are not sensitive enough to register the amounts that remain.

  • Drop It

    What it is: Drops made with food-grade hydrogen peroxide, natural powder egg whites and sunflower lecithin

    How it works: Add one to two drops to a five- to six-ounce glass of white or sparkling wine, or two to three drops to a glass of red and swirl for 20 seconds. Alternately, add five to eight drops to a 750-milliliter bottle, recork, turn upside down twice and consume within 24 hours. Drop It converts the sulfites to a more harmless sulfate; because it’s not recognized by the body, no histamines will be released that could cause headaches, flushing or indigestion.

    Pros: It’s affordable; each bottle costs $20 and treats 45 to 55 glasses or seven to nine bottles. This makes it a convenient option that can be used at home, in restaurants and at wineries and festivals. (There’s even a version designed to treat smaller-size pours given at tastings.) It can also smooth out the rough tannins of younger reds and can be used in any wine, including sparkling.

    Cons: Reducing several of the phenols in full-bodied young reds can sometimes slightly alter the tannin structure in a negative way. Inclusion of egg white means that product is not suitable for vegans or those with egg allergies.

  • Üllo

    What it is: Wine purifier, sediment remover and optional aerator made from BPA-free plastic and silicone that uses disposable filters

    How it works: You install a Selective Sulfite Capture food-grade polymer resin filter into the Üllo, set it to add oxygen or not, place the device on top of a glass and pour the wine through the filter. Each filter purifies one 750-milliliter bottle, and the manufacturer recommends replacing the filter for every new bottle or if three hours have passed since it was first used. Rinse the purifier with water after each use or place it on the top rack of a dishwasher to clean, and store it in the included velvet bag between uses.

    Pros: It’s eco-friendly since the only disposable part is the filter, which is biodegradable; the filter captures both sulfites and sediment. The optional aerating feature allows you to let bigger reds (and some whites) breathe and “open up” before serving. Running wine through the filter a second time provides maximum sulfite removal.

    Cons: It’s expensive—$80, including a stand, velvet bag and four filters; additional filters cost $20 for 6 or $40 for 15. (A subscribe-and-save option lets you save 40%.) It’s not recommended for sparkling wines, and other wines with effervescence will lose some of their carbonation once they’re filtered.

  • StiQit

    What it is: A single-use device made with proprietary FDC-permitted food-grade ingredients and a patented solution to neutralize sulfites into micro droplets of water

    How it works: Stir a StiQit in your glass of wine for 10 seconds to remove the sulfites. Remove “Q” from stick and attach it to the rim to signify that it has been purified, then discard or recycle the StiQit.

    Pros: It is small, light, easy and portable option suitable for all kinds of settings and works in only 10 seconds rather than several minutes. It can be used for all kinds of wines including sparkling and does not affect the taste, nose or mouthfeel.

    Cons: It’s pricey—$16 for 8, $30 for 16, $43 for 24, $64 for 36, $85 for 48, $177 for 100. (A subscribe-and-save option lets you save 15%.) It is a single-use product and can be considered wasteful.

  • The Wand

    What it is: A single-use device made from BPA-free food-grade plastic and patented nano-pore resin technology

    How it works: Place The Wand in a six-ounce glass of wine for a minimum of three minutes. After eight minutes, 90% of the histamines and sulfites are removed. For faster filtering, the manufacturer recommends stirring the wine with The Wand. Discard after each use.

    Pros: It’s a portable option that’s convenient for travel, restaurants and winery visits. It does not, however, remove the tannins, antioxidants, phenolics or any other desirable components. The plastic is recyclable.

    Cons: It’s expensive—$10 for 5, $20 for 10, $55 for 30, $155 for 90. (A subscribe-and-save option lets you save 10%.) It looks a bit unsightly in the glass and can be a bit awkward to stir in some settings like restaurants.