Sulphite free wines - what, why and for whom?

Posted on June 18, 2016 by Dimitri Safonov | 1 comment

We have been truly astonished by our initial sales of sulphite free wines. It is such a pleasure to also find ourselves helpful to people who are suffering from allergic reactions on wine. Yet they do want to enjoy a glass or too!

Let's quickly get down to business here - what are sulphite-free wines (other spelling include no sulphite added wines or sulfite-free), why they are different and whom are they made for.

What are sulphites?

Sulphites or ‘preservatives 220’ are additives that are used during winemaking process to hide some faults, prevent oxygen from entering the vats and, in general, protect the winemaker from accidental flaws. In conventional winemaking process it it fairly usual that significant amount of sulphites (not threatening to general health) is added.

Just to make sure that we all know that - there is a small amount of sulphites that occurs naturally, the amount if really low and normally below 10 ppm (parts per million) or less.

Natural winemaking, or simply practices that follow minimal interventions call for sulphite levels not to be higher than 100 ppm. It means that an organic certification will not mean the wine doesn't have an addition of sulphites, just the presumption that the levels are fairly low.

Why to watch for sulphites? Learn about sulphites in wine

They are quite aggressive preservatives and scientific studies show evidence that they can trigger allergic reactions or more severe symptoms (fi.e. fast heartbeat, dizziness, stomach upset). It can be even life-threatening for people with asthma. For majority of us these levels are not really a big deal. So if you are keen on a particular wine that is not organic or sulphite-free, it is OK. Some studies claim that sulphites are responsible for that ‘morning after’ headache, but it is just too difficult to distinguish between low tolerance, too much wine in general and sulphites' influence. We will leave it to you to decide! :)

Natural winemaking is a gamble – what if the weather turns out to be austere or there would be some interruptions during fermentation? There are no easy means (like additives or extra manipulation) how to get this wine to taste good. Yet these wines can taste differently in a good way – they can surprise and spark your imagination. You need to try a few good ones to make your own opinion!

What are sulphite free wines?

Both red and white wines normally require some addition of sulphites - be it to prevent the wine from oxidation (predominantly whites, not to lose their delicate flavours) or to age wines well (red wines mostly as aged wines are valued more normally). Winemakers that don't do it risk it a lot - possible faults and simply unforeseen circumstances (things happen, we all know that!). So in general sulphite free wines are fresher, younger, not particularly destined for ageing and very expressive of the grape variety. On the less positive side, these wines can have that off-smell of a rotten egg or something similar, it could be because of a fault or a by-product (small) of fermentation (that wasn't cushioned by addition of sulphites). Yet for us the priorities remain the same - the wine should smell and taste wonderful.

Sulphite free wines: why do some of them have 'contains sulphites' on the label?

All wines contain naturally occurring sulphites, but the levels are very low - up to 20 mg/l. By law only the wines that contain less than 10 mg/l do not need include that on the label. We have referenced all wines and the ones that are listed as sulphite-free or no sulphite added have less than 20 mg/l of sulphites. People who suffer from intolerances start noticing it when concentration exceeds 45 mg/l only. 

We were on a mission to find and select the best tasting sulphite free wines for you. Please let us know if we succeeded. You can find sulphite-free wines in our Wines catalogue (just use the filter) or have a look at our Sulphite Free Case of 6 Organic Wines.   

Please refer to our short memo on differences between organic, vegan, natural and strictly no added sulphites wines if you want to learn more. 

Posted in sulphite-free


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1 Response

Rebecca Timmis
Rebecca Timmis

June 30, 2016

This is fantastic news for me! I worked out I was sulphite intolerant just over a year ago after a long period of general ill health. Being someone who enjoys a glass of wine, I was stunned to discover that none of the major stores stock even one sulphite free bottle – and I have tried to change this without result. I look forward to dropping by very soon. What a fabulous addition to the high street.

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