Wines without sulfites

Sulfites are formed during the fermentation of grapes. During the production of wine further sulfur is added for its stabilisation. This is different for natural wines which are becoming more and more popular. 20 years ago, this was impossible as modern techniques and sterilisation knowledge for winemaking equipment were unknown.

Sulfite free wine – natural wine !

As a matter of fact sulfites form during the fermentation of wine even in natural wine. At this point no or only small quantities of sulfur are added in the production process. High sulfite contents mask the taste of wine. Therefore it needs to be aired to soften this effect. In contrast natural wines don`t have this disadvantage. They`re softer, more delicate, agreeable but also fragile. Quality wise some of the natural wines compete with the biggest grand crus which are available. A point often overlooked is that labels which guarantee sulfite contents are the European Bio, Demeter or Biodyvin labels which have the following limits (mg/l)

StandardEU-BioBiodyvinDemeter
Red wine1501008070
White wine20015090105
Rose wine20015090105
Sparkling wine1851556095
Liquorous wine400370200200

The human perception limit is between 20-60 mg / l sulfites.

Production of sulfite free wines

Undammaged grapes are collected at low temperatures to avoid an early fermentation. After it starts the grapes are covered by inert atmosphere to avoid undesired aroma. Strict hygienic measures determine the success or failure of natural wines. To preserve natural wine, sterilisation of tanks or oak barrels by high temperature vapour tempering replace sulfur dioxide. In parallel olfactory and analytic controls help to detect the smallest deviation from the desired taste. The crude wine can be preserved by sterile filtration or flash sterilisation at each stage. Unfortunately this reduces the biomass which is required to give a good wine. In the final step the wine is bottled under inert atmosphere to avoid oxidation. Natural wine is an unstable equilibrium, it can fall to either side underlining the thrill and fragility of natural wine. To put it differently the wine enthusiast consumes natural wines while they`re young.

Best sulfite free wines

It must be remembered that white and white sparkling wines are developing better than corresponding natural red wines. Natural red wines sometimes show “ethyl phenol” notes which develop due to a Brettanomyces contamination. They form in red wine during barrel ageing or after bottling and produce a band aid like note in wine. This is normally prevented by the addition of sulphur dioxide.

Some of the natural wines below still contain sulfites but their levels are far below the ones shown above. In the end you`re going to be your own guinea pig by trying which wine is best for you

Preferred sulfite free champagne

Preferred sulfite free white wine

Preferred sulfite free red wine

Summarising…..

In brief wines without additional sulphur dioxide are becoming more popular and are produced because of improved technical knowledge. They`re normally not to complex, have a lively taste but you need to consume them while they`re young. Natural wines are a good solution if you`re allergic to sulphites.

Christina Day
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