sulfites vin

Sulfites in Wine: Know Everything!

Sulfites in wine seem to be the antichrist of natural wine lovers. Whereas before, it was chaptalization that was singled out, today it is clearly the use of sulfur that is the subject of debate in the world of wine. But do you know what it is really about? What are the dangers ? Are there Sulfite-Free Wines? When is sulfur added to wine? Where can you buy wines without added sulphites? We explain everything to you in relaxation!

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What are sulphites in wine?

Sulphites are sulfur dioxide (SO2) with antiseptic and antioxidant properties. We therefore add sulfites to protect the wine from bad bacteria and contact with air (so that it does not turn vinegar).
The problem is that while wine can develop bad bacteria, but like all living things, it is intrinsically made up of them. Sulfites do not sort, freeze the wine, preventing life forms (good or bad) from developing and evolving. Love it or hate it, it changes the taste, the mouthfeel and the energy of the wine. This is why we also speak of living wines concerning wines without added sulphites.
The other reason why sulphites are singled out is that they can be dangerous for your health



What are the Dangers of Sulfites in Wine?

Sulfur dioxide (sulfites), which is a colorless, flammable gas that is added to wine, is on the list of 14 major allergens. In addition to causing irritation, headaches, the most sensitive people may experience breathing difficulties, hot flashes, swelling and itching.


Are there Sulfite-Free Wines?

Sulphites (SO2) are naturally present at low doses (less than 10 mg/l) in wine and other food products such as ham, in order to protect against contact with air and bad bacteria. There is no wine without sulphites. If the winemaker does not add any during vinification or bottling, we speak of wine without “added” sulphites. The concept of “total” SO2 is important, it is natural sulphites + added sulphites.


Which Wine Contains the Most Sulphite?

Sulfur and tannins have the same antiseptic and antioxidant properties. This is why winegrowers add more sulphites in wines with the least tannins. Knowing that the tannins are present in the skin, the pips and the stems of the grapes, and that only the red wines macerate with these solid parts, it is therefore the red wines that have the most tannins. Logically, it is therefore white wines and rosés that contain the most sulphites, because they are more fragile.

Sulphites in White Wine

  • French law authorizes up to 200 mg/l total SO2 (sulfites) for white wines.
  • The AB label (organic farming) authorizes up to 150 mg/l total SO2 (sulphites) for white wines.
  • The Biodyvin and Demeter labels (biodynamic agriculture) authorize up to 90 mg/l total SO2 (sulphites) for white wines.
  • The Vin MĂ©thode Nature label authorizes up to 40 mg/l total SO2 (sulfites) for white wines.

Sulfites in Rosé Wine

  • French law authorizes up to 200 mg/l total SO2 (sulfites) for rosĂ© wines.
  • The AB label (organic farming) authorizes up to 150 mg/l total SO2 (sulphites) for rosĂ© wines.
  • The Biodyvin and Demeter labels (biodynamic agriculture) authorize up to 90 mg/l total SO2 (sulphites) for rosĂ© wines.
  • The Vin MĂ©thode Nature label authorizes up to 40 mg/l total SO2 (sulfites) for rosĂ© wines.

Sulfites in Red Wine

  • French law authorizes up to 150 mg/l total SO2 (sulfites) for red wines.
  • The AB label (organic farming) authorizes up to 100 mg/l total SO2 (sulphites) for red wines.
  • The Biodyvin and Demeter labels (biodynamic agriculture) authorize up to 60 mg/l total SO2 (sulphites) for red wines.
  • The Vin MĂ©thode Nature label authorizes up to 30 mg/l total SO2 (sulfites) for red wines.


When are Sulfites Added to Wine?

Sulfites in wine can be added at different times during the production stage. And that will have different consequences.

  • Sulphites during the harvest: When sulphites are added to the harvest, this has the effect of inhibiting the action of indigenous yeasts (which are naturally present yeasts, the winegrower will therefore use exogenous yeasts), and this is intended to prevent oxidation. Sulfur at harvest is often used when the grapes are damaged.
  • Sulphites during crushing: The winemaker adds sulphites during this stage to prevent the development of bad bacteria and possible oxidation during vinification.
  • Sulphites during wine fermentation: Adding sulphites during wine fermentation kills and prevents the development of bad bacteria, but also cuts malolactic fermentation.
  • Sulfites during racking: The racking of a wine is when it is transferred from one container to another. The wine is in contact with the air, so in order to protect it, some winegrowers add sulphites.
  • Sulfites at bottling: The winemaker adds sulfur at bottling to protect the wine from contact with air and prevent the development of bad bacteria. If a natural winemaker decides to add sulfur to his wine, that’s usually when he does it. The wine is already “made”, it just seeks to stabilize it.

Where to Buy Wines Without Added Sulfites?

To buy wine without added sulphites, you can go to your natural wine cellar in town. He will necessarily have a few cuvĂ©es to offer you (otherwise he is not a serious wine merchant 😉!).

If you want to have more choice, or if you have a particular cuvée in mind, we advise you to go to our section: Buy Natural Wine.