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Sulphites in wine

 

Sulphur is the stuff of the devil - at least that is what the Bible says. But does that also apply to us wine connoisseurs? After all, the ancient Greeks used sulphites to preserve food, so what harm can it do? The discussion about «vin naturel» - or natural wine - has reignited the debates about sulphur in wine.

 

Just to clear up a preconception: If the note on the label reads «contains sulphites», this is not a health warning! Instead, this information serves to indicate the presence of a substance that may trigger allergic reactions. The Food Labelling Directive has required that such ingredients be listed separately on the label since 2005.

Sulphur is not harmful to health and it does not induce headaches or migraines. Only 10 per cent of asthma sufferers experience any effects on their health. A genuine sulphur allergy is very rare.

 

Wine without sulphite:

The production of sulphur occurs naturally during the fermentation of wine, meaning that no wines are completely sulphur-free. Things are slightly different with added sulphur, which brings with it benefits including a longer storage life, for example. As such, a subtle difference exists: No wine is actually sulphur-free, but wines with no added sulphite do exist. The upshot of this is that even wines with no added sulphite (including many organic and biodynamic wines) exceed the limit of 30 mg/l and are consequently required to display «contains sulphites» on the label.

What purpose does sulphite serve in wine?
Sulphur has an antimicrobial and antioxidant effect. This means that sulphite prevents the wine from further fermentation, whilst also protecting it from oxidising too quickly - therefore increasing its storage life. As such, sulphur also preserves the taste of the wine and its sensory properties.

As a general rule, more sulphites may be added to white wines than to red wines. This is simply because red wines naturally contain more sulphites, which protect against oxidation. Likewise, it can also be generally said that wines with more residual sweetness are likely to have a higher sulphite content. Once again, this is because the sugar they contain brings with it a risk of secondary fermentation. Even the legal requirements take this into account.


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Weibel Weine AG

Moosweg 40, Postfach

3604 Thun-Gwatt

T: 033 334 55 55

weibel@weibelweine.ch

Opening hours
Monday to Friday 7.30 am - 6.30 pm
Saturday 10.00 am - 4.00 pm

Weibel Weinhandel AG

Früebergstrasse 41

6340 Baar

T: 041 760 67 01

weibel@weibelweine.ch

Opening hours

Monday closed
Tuesday to Friday
9.00 am - 12.30 pm | 1.30 pm - 6.30 pm
Saturday
9.00 am - 4.00 pm