Sulfur is like deodorant, you don’t have to use it, but it is really nice for other people when you do. People always ask about sulfites in wine. They blame that they get stuffy after drinking wine, or that their hands swell, or that they get a headache or that their face turns red, on sulfites. There are actually sulfites in a lot of the foods that you already eat. Especially if you enjoy things like trail mix, dried fruit, or bottled fruit juices. Most seafood is actually pretty heavily treated with sulfur dioxide.
Sulfur is a naturally occuring compound and it has been used for centuries as a preservative. They use it in winemaking to kill things like mildew in the vineyard. They use it to stop any kind of wild yeast that would give you off flavors. They use it to sterilize everything in the winery itself.
While you find sulfur all throughout the winemaking process it does need to be used very judiciously, because it will give a really strong smell and it will just completely shut down all of the aromas in your wine. So, why do you get stuffy when you drink wine? It’s actually not sulfurs fault. It is histamine. Histamines are found on the skins of grapes. Unfortunately, histamines are naturally occurring in wine and alcohol fermentation actually enhances it.
Typically people who are sensitive to histamines will have stronger reactions to red wines that white wines, but it is unavoidable.