I came across an article that does a decent job clearing up the increasingly common consumer confusion around sulfites in wine. The following article was written by Canadian Master of Wine James Cluer and originally published in BC Liquor Stores’ Fall 2009 Taste magazine.
Unless you suffer from severe athsma or have a rare sensitivity to sulfur, then don’ worry about sulfites. Besides, there are more sulfites in foods like commercially-prepares fruit salad than in wine. Sulfites only seemed to become an issue when legislation forced producers to state content on the label, at which time a surprising number of consumers suddenly developed a physical reaction to (them).
Sulfur has been used as a preservative in winemaking since antiquity. Today, in the form of sulfur dioxide, it is used in virtually all wines as a preservative and (in the winery) as a disinfectant. It can help prevent wines from oxidizing and can kill bacteria and yeast. The amount used is controlled by law and producers of finer wines strive to limit the addition of sulfur to a minimum.
There are barely any wines produced in the world without adding sulfur. It is actually impossible to produce a wine entirely free of sulfites because a small amount is a byproduct of fermentation.