Friday, August 03, 2007

Questions: Sulfites and Booze in Bubbly

A curious Bubbly Girl named Thelma wrote to me wondering about the amount of alcohol in a bottle of champagne and sulfites in wine. Since I had to do a bit of research, I figured I'd share it with the rest of you.

First, it's probably safe to remember that all 750 ml or 25 or so ounces in a bottle of bubbly contain alcohol. But it's true that 4 ounces of champagne aren't nearly as potent as 4 ounces of Cognac.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, one 5-ounce glass of wine has the same amount of alcohol as 1.5 ounces of vodka or 12 ounces of beer. Doing the math, one bottle of champagne has the equivalent alcohol as drinking 7.5 ounces of hard liquor.

But when drinking bubbly you can't forget about the carbonation. Not only do those tiny bubbles tickle your nose; they also speed the alcohol into your system, giving it a more potent effect than the equivalent amount of still wine or vodka.

Moving on... sulfites are these naturally occurring substances, often found in small amounts in wine and beer as a natural byproduct of fermentation. They're also added to many foods like shrimp, frozen potatoes, dried fruit and wine, because they're a great preservative. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that added sulfites make 1 in 100 people itchy, short of breath or worse.

If added sulfites in wine are a concern, you may want to look into wines made with organic or biodynamic processes, and often minimal amounts of added sulfites. I'm not sure its possible to make sparklers sans sulfites, but a couple responsible producers include Albet i Noya in Spain, which makes an organic cava called Cava Can Vendrell and Fleury, the first champagne maker to go biodynamic in 1989.

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