This post is also available in: Italian
Some time ago I was talking with a distributor of wines, wines that, in most cases, can be described as “natural wines”. He said to me that the majority of those wines had no added sulfites, other than a little “sprinkle” at the time of bottling. From what I could gather, these wines have a content of Total SO2 way below 30-40 mg/L.
What is the legislative framework in EU for solfites in wine?
The legal limits are 150 mg/L for reds, 200 mg/L for whites. The new “organic wine” protocol, just approved a few weeks ago, lower the upper limits to 100 mg/L for reds and 150 mg/L for whites (for wines with a residual sugar content < 2 gr/L, which means that other wines, which are still dry from a sensory point of view, between 2 – 3 g/L, can have more sulfites). Only wines with less than 10 mg/L of Tot. SO2 can be mentioned as “no sulfites wines”.
Today I had some interesting data from our lab, that I think are of some interest.
These are wines from the 2011 vintage, that haven’t been added of sulfites so far. Fermentation were carried in the traditional way for red wines (delestages and pumping overs, skin maceration between 3-4 weeks) without inoculating with commercial dry yeasts. They are maturing in medium/large size oak barrel at the moment. Most of them have been racked only once or not at all after pressing.
Data are shown as mg/L of Tot./Free SO2
- Grenache, racked once, 17/3
- Sangiovese1, never racked, 35/8
- Sangiovese2, never racked, 28/4
- Sangiovese3, racked once, 29/4
- Sangiovese4, never racked, 24/3
- Sangiovese5, racked once, 25/4
- Sangiovese6, racked once, 40/4
- Ciliegiolo, never racked,, 28/3
As you can see we have wines as low as 17 mg/L of TOT. SO2 Tot. (Grenache), and as high as 40 mg/L (Sangiovese6) (average is 28 mg/L).
Now, these are quite high values for many people that believe that a wine shouldn’t have sulfites, or maybe just a little tiny amount (how tiny?) added at the time of bottling. That Sangiovese6 – from 50 years old beautiful vines, never been added of sulfites up to now – if taken to 20 mg/L of free SO2 at bottling, to ensure that the wines stay fresh and don’t get oxidized (most people will even go to 30-35 mg/L to compensate for the oxidation of the free SO2 in the early stage after bottling), will end up with at least 60 mg/L of Tot. SO2. A wine that many “natural” wine lovers wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. Nevertheless a wine that, for the way it has been done (organic agriculture, no yeasts, no sulfites added, no fining, no filtration), could well fit within the “natural wine” philosophy.
So, the point here is: should we focus our attention so much about the sulfites content of the wines, or rather the way that a wine is made, why it is made like that, and, what it tastes like, now and in 5 years time (at least)? And, are we totally sure that what many people say about their wines – “I have only added a little bit of sulfites at bottling and the wine has now 20 mg/L of Tot. SO2″ – is completely accurate?
And, in the end, should we really care?