An EU research project has been launched to prevent allergic reactions to wine, by finding alternatives to sulphur dioxide.

Organised under the umbrella of EU research network Eureka, wine industry specialists are testing a variety of alternative substances and treatments to reduce the amount of sulphites in wines. 

Sulphur dioxide is widely used by the industry to prevent micro-biological damage to taste and colour. But, the EU considers the resultant sulphites as a potential allergen, and requires wine firms to list their presence on bottles.

The new three-year research project is expected to cost at least EUR500,000, and will involve teams from Dao Sul - Sociedade Vitivinicola, of Portugal; the Universidade De Aveiro Portugal; and probably Switzerland's Schenk Holding and Spain's Vinedos De Ithaca.

They will experiment with chitosane contact; subjecting wine to high pressure; and adding sesquiterpenoids, (antioxidant grape skin compounds); or combinations of these methods.

Ana Rodrigues, of Dao Sul, told just-drinks today (24 September): "It has been extremely difficult to eliminate the use of sulphites, because they are so useful, but they are important in the allergic aspect of wines."