Sulfites are nothing new in wines. In fact, they are present in ALL wines at some level, usually under 25 ppm, due to being a natural byproduct of fermentation. When speaking about added sulfites, some believe that sulfites were first discovered to help preserve wines as far back as Greek Antiquity or the Roman Empire, although the jury is still out on this.
We do know that it is first well documented in the 1487 German Royal Decree, where it was permitted to burn sulfur-soaked wood chips to disinfect barrels and preserve wines. But, the amount that ended up in wines was probably much lower than what we see today in many industrial and conventional wines, where the limits can push 200-300ppm.
If you wish to drink wines with lower levels of sulfites, look for natural wines where the winemaker often follows a philosophy of 'nothing added, nothing taken away', organic wines (but beware there will still be sulfites and possibly other additives) or wines from smaller producers, especially from the Old World, as they don't worry about killing microbial activity to control the flavors in the same way that a brand name must do to achieve the consistency in flavors for their sometimes million plus bottles.
The jury is also still out on whether sulfites are responsible for hangovers (there are also a slew of other strange additives and natural histamines which can cause problems). But if I had a nickel for every time someone said "I don't get hangovers drinking Italian wine", I'd be rich. So maybe the proof is in the pudding...or the Italian and natural wine.
If you are interested in wines like this, you may enjoy our Italian wine club. All the wines included have minimal or no added sulfites.