A biocatalyst for the removal of sulfite from alcoholic beverages

Biotechnol Bioeng. 2005 Jan 5;89(1):123-7. doi: 10.1002/bit.20307.


The presence of sulfites in alcoholic beverages, particularly in wines, can cause allergic responses with symptoms ranging from mild gastrointestinal problems to life threatening anaphylactic shock in a substantial portion of the population. We have developed a simple and inexpensive biocatalytic method that employs wheatgrass (Triticum aestivum) chloroplasts for the efficient oxidation of sulfites in wines to innocuous sulfates. A sufficiently high rate of sulfite oxidation was obtained in the presence of ethanol at concentrations commonly found in most wines. Crude chloroplast preparations at a concentration as low as 5 mg/mL were capable of reducing sulfite in commercial white wines from 150 ppm to under 7.5 ppm within 3 hours. A 93% removal of sulfite in commercial red wines was observed with 1 mg/mL chloroplasts within 45 min. Optimal sulfite removal efficiency was observed at pH 8.5 and was promoted by illumination, indicating the participation of light-induced photosynthetic electron transport processes in sulfite oxidation. Overall, this work indicates that biocatalytic oxidation using wheatgrass chloroplasts can be employed to remove sulfites from beverages prior to consumption.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholic Beverages / analysis*
  • Catalysis
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Electron Transport / radiation effects
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Lighting
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Photosynthesis
  • Sulfites / metabolism*
  • Time Factors
  • Triticum / cytology
  • Wine / analysis


  • Sulfites
  • Ethanol