7 Myths of Natural Wines With No Added Sulphites (Sulphite Free)

Posted on 28 September, 2016 by Dimitri Safonov | 3 comments

7 myths of natural wines without added sulphites

What are wines with no added sulphites?

Before we go into the most popular myths about natural wines, let us draw a line what are they. Natural wines or those made without added sulphites (or sulfites as some spell it) are produced with minimal intervention in the winery. Winemakers who follow this sulphite free wine movement do not discourage natural processes in the winery, so the wines in some way produces by itself, as nature intended.

The organic certification and principles clarify and regulate what is happening in the vineyard - no artificial chemicals or harmful pesticides. Natural winemaking ensures that you are not getting some nasty things which could added in the winery. So in the last stage of getting your product done they won't add color adjustments, flavorings or sulphites. Hope it makes sense!

So are natural wines sulphite free? Sadly no, sulphite free wine doesn't exist. There is always a tiny quantity of naturally occurring sulphites in every wine. The levels are very low and they are harmless. What's important to know is how much has been added during the winemaking process. 

No one is declaring sulphite levels on the bottle and that's where the problem is. Have you noticed there is no such thing as an ingredients list on the wine bottle? 

That is because conventional winemakers do not want to admit that they might have used up to 50 additives (colourants, sugars, preservatives an so on) allowed by EU. Excessive levels of sulphites are responsible for your headaches and morning after effect. Try there natural wines made without sulphites added for yourself and see the difference! Many of our customers have reported the absence of hangovers or headaches that are normally triggered by excessive sulphites and additives. With natural wines you can simply run much better next morning. Our members love that!

Read on for more information about natural wines and sulphites.   

Sulphites.... Why are they important?

Wine that was produced naturally will still contain some minimal levels of sulphites, usually below 20 mg/l. The law insists that winemakers should put ‘contains sulphites’ on the label regardless if they are naturally occurring or added if the levels are above 10 mg/l. This creates some confusion as the majority of natural wines fall into a bracket of 10-20mg/l, so you see this note on the label, however sulphites are naturally occurring and harmless. So just you know, extreme cases when people are very sensitive to sulphites occur when the concentration exceeds 45 mg/l. Organic wines are already made with much lower quantities - less than 100 mg/l, but if you are sensitive, you need to shop for natural wines with no added sulphites (marked on our site as sulphite free wines). This is a reason we at Organic Wine Club do not list wines that contain over 45 mg/l of sulphites.

The World Health Organisation recommends that only 0.7mg/l of sulphites (sulfites) should be consumed per 1 kg of weight per day. It means that an adult of 70kg weight, who bought natural wine that contains 30 mg/l naturally occurring sulphites, can have a few large glasses of wine (up to half bottle). Obviously, when conventional wines containing over 150 mg/l it means much more harm to your body. We at Organic Wine Club have thought that you don't need to spend too much time shopping for wine - that is why 45 mg/l will guarantee your safety and peace of mind. Cheers to that!  

Let’s go now into some popular misconceptions. We have collected 7 most frequently asked in-store or online. 

1 They are faulty or smell faulty

The smell of freshness, fermented wine and young character of natural wine can indeed be a bit too much. Extreme examples include aromas of cardboard, rotten eggs and forest floor. In these cases you can return the bottle or send it back in the restaurant. It sometimes happens with all the wines, doesn't matter natural or conventional.

The other thing is that in natural winemaking all processes happen naturally so winemakers do not forcefully stop anything (or encourage) - it might just be that the wine started to re-ferment. Again, if your nose smells a fault - send it back. Good quality natural wines smell fresh, almost like just out of the barrel but not faulty. We will recommend to aerate a very playful natural wine - it can be just too unusual and too playful, so it needs some air to express itself in a more balanced way! Simply open your bottle 20-30 minutes in advance and you can also decant if you prefer.

hand harvesting organic wines

2 They are amateur young wines that everyone can make

It is about great grapes, they need to be hand harvested and then processed in clean and hygienic environment in the winery. Most of them are a product of Organic viticulture. Natural wines in general assume no intervention during winemaking process and to work in sync with nature. Fermentation is being carried out using natural yeasts. If you can do it all...  well, we are so looking forward to trying your wines!

Many natural wines won top awards at the international wine tasting panels. Here is our collection of award winning organic and natural wines.

Consider the comparison to some big well known companies. Natural wines are made by artisan producers, they reflect the soil but also heart and soul of the winemaker. If you call it amateur we will happily concur.

3 They taste awful

Some natural wines are quite unpalatable. We also do not know why they were released in the first place. Yet it is probably that they find their customer - some people have unusual palates don't you think?

Together with our WSET certified wine expert and our customers we personally handpick natural wines to ensure no major misses or unpalatable examples.

Every wine can taste bad if produced with mistakes or shortcuts, it is essential for wine experts to taste them before they hit any retail shelves or online. 

4 Are they really healthier and safer?

Yes and there is no doubt about that.

First of all, certified or not, natural wines are made with minimal or no interventions in the winery so it means maximum synchronisation with nature. It maximises nutrients and antioxidant levels*. In addition to that you do not adding nasty pesticide residue into your body.

Recent studies* also confirmed that natural wines made without added sulphites also being consumed and tolerated by your liver better. That means potentially a lighter effect on your body, less headaches if you are prone to it, but please note, we still insist you stick to drinkaware guidelines.

*Organic wine benefits as per Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Southampton, University of Rome’s Clinical Nutrition, University of California at Davis and University of Newcastle.

5 Sulphites are everywhere so why bother?

Yes, it is true, sulphites are added to many food types to preserve it. Yet not just food, but drinks, cosmetics and personal care. It is in your dried apricots in an enormous quantity just to give you an example. A can of coke will have more than 200 mg/l.

Conventional winemaking not only preserves the wine but masks unwanted flavours and makes the wines look and taste the same year after year by drowning you with loads of sulphites.

People are generally not very sensitive to them, studies only tentatively confirm that there could be 3-5% people who can be very sensitive. These include people who suffer from allergies and increasingly asthmatics.

In some way it is like buying fresh ingredients and pre-made food. The latter contains much less goodness but also can taste 'as expected'. See our point?

We have been programmed by huge winemaking corporations that those wines are 'the real thing', yet it could not be further from the truth. Perhaps it is time to get back to natural wines and discover mornings without headaches triggered by excessive sulphites?

6 Should be drunk in one go - natural wines are not destined to last

This one is difficult to tackle - in some way sulphites are exactly added to prolong wine’s life, stabilise the wine and preserve it for you. On the other hand natural wines are living wines, they live in the bottle, develop and become more complex with age, call it wine wisdom or complexity of flavours. However depending on the style, grape variety and circumstances they can die and the absence of sulphites will ensure that they are really dead, being not suitable to drink after.

There are examples of natural wines that were kept in good cellars for 10-15 years and they taste amazing after. On the other spectre, there are wines which are past their best after a few years.

Please have a chat with us if in doubt whether a particular natural wine is likely to age well.

7 There is no depth of flavour and no rich tannins because it is what you expect from aged wines

It is a continuation of the previous myth, so you already know what we had to say about the wine’s age. Some winemakers also prefer cleaner styles of wine so they do not age their wines in oak at all. In that case you will have a purer and more straightforward fruit flavour, but some grape varieties can be naturally tannic. Oak smoothes those astringent tannins and makes the wine rounder. We have got natural wines which were not aged in oak, but also a few ones that are oaked - it's up to you to decide which to try!

Natural Wine Verdict

We believe that natural wines made without adding any sulphites are not just for people with wine allergies or sulphite intolerances. 

These natural wines are expressive, they are healthier for you and also represent a direct continuation of organic principles - farmers ensure healthier growing environment and winemakers produce these fantastic wines without adding nasty stuff too. These are living wines and it is just extremely exciting to think about and try them out!

Most of these natural wines have amazing stories, delicious flavours delivered by passionate winemaking. See for yourself with our largest selection of sulphite free wines in the UK: browse our natural wine cases or our full collection of sulphite free wine in our wine list!

You can benefit from our expert knowledge about natural wines and sulphites free wines - choose one our carefully mixed cases of wine and buy your own case of natural wines online!

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3 Responses

Diane McLeay
Diane McLeay

14 January, 2019

I found your website extremely interesting. I have a serious sulphite allergy, quite different from the usual sulphite sensitivity. I developed it about 13 years ago and I often think how lovely it would be to have a glass of red wine. But of course I am forced to abstain. One thing I would like to pass on to your clients is that sulphites are used as a bleaching agent as well as a preservative. So flour, some cheeses etc are bleached during processing. It is truly sad how many chemicals we now have in our society. Unhealthy!


19 September, 2018

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Trish Gray
Trish Gray

24 January, 2018

Hi – I wanted to find out what Sulphites actually are, especially in wine. I am one of those unfortunate people who suffer from the ‘headache’ even sometimes after just a glass of wine, so I tend to try and buy organic where possible. Recently we were in Australia and I had a particularly unpleasant headache that lasted for a couple of days (after 2 glasses of quite a nice non organic wine) and I looked on the label of the offending bottle and discovered that it contained Preservative 220. This puzzled me because I have never seen ‘contains preservative’ on a wine label anywhere – and whilst choosing wine in Australia I found that every wine that contained preservative stated the fact. I understand that Preservative 220 is in actual fact the Sulphites – so why does the label state Contains Sulphites and contains Preservative 220 as if they are 2 different ingredients? I am definitely going to stick to organic wines in future, if the sulphite content is lower I am less likely to produce a reaction. It would however be really helpful if perhaps labelling could be more specific about the level of preservative contained in wine – I think the Australians are halfway there, the rest of the world should catch up!

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