What is sulphur/sulphites?
Sulphur is a classic wine preservative. Is it good? Is it bad? Read on, and you will know.
Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is the most widely used chemical additive in winemaking. It is used to kill unwanted bacteria, living yeast cells and stabilize the wine after bottling. SO2 can be added at various points during the winemaking process. It is essential to know that SO2 is a natural by-product of alcoholic fermentation. Even if no sulphur is added, it will be present in the bottled wine. In classic winemaking and oenological training, the idea is to take no chances and add SO2 throughout the process to ensure stability. In reality, if you tend your vines without chemicals, they will be stronger and have less need for the ‘help’ that SO2 provides.
People can be allergic to SO2, and it can cause headaches and even rashes. In regards to taste, SO2 locks the aromatic expression in the wine and can display charred or matchstick characters. Red wines have less of this flavour, as indigenous antioxidants from grape skin and tannins help stabilize the wine naturally. With white wines that are directly pressed, this protection will not be present.
So mainly, SO2 can be a wine friend in low levels. But unfortunately, some winemakers still add unnecessarily high levels, although the average trend is a decline in SO2 usage.
At Pulp Wine, we carry wines without any added sulphur and wines with a bit of dose added at bottling. The bottom line is that it can be okay to use it, but only when needed. The goal is always the taste experience.