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Low sulphur wine - some thoughts from a recent convert.

Lots of people pop into the shop in the search for low sulphur or even zero sulphur wines and we are happy to try and help get them on the natural wine track. Sulphur is a natural by-product of fermentation. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) preserves wine. It stops wine from oxidising and extends the ‘life’ of a wine. Here at Buon Vino, we are completely sold on the benefits and taste of natural wine and feel that maybe extending the ‘life’ of an overly filtered, fined and preserved conventional wine may not be such a great idea after all.

Sulphur sterilises wine, but some people these days have reactions to sulphites in wine and in food. Some reactions may be extreme and others may just be that headache/hangover feeling. Obviously, wine contains alcohol, so that ‘day after’ feeling is not just the sulphites if you have over-imbibed.

Excessive use of sulphites in conventional wines just can’t be good for anybody. Sulphites occur naturally in the wine making process though so completely sulphite free wines don’t actually exist. Volcanic soils for example can be rich in sulphites which end up in the wine and sulphur is produced as a by-product of fermentation so there is always a smidgen of the stuff in there but we are talking about a fraction of the amount that may be added to the wine. What we generally try to do is to encourage people to try natural or biodynamic wines that usually have a lot less than 70mg of sulphites per Litre. (Conventional wines can often have more than 200mg per litre!) We want people to try ’natural wines’ and quality wines.  These are not mass produced bottles, but the more artisan, agricultural products where the elements of weather, climate, nature and grape are taken to the next level. Flavours are given the opportunity to develop naturally through wild yeasts (these wild yeasts are often killed off in conventional wines by the use of SO2). Sometimes these wines are also classified as ’biodynamic’ or ‘organic’ and some low sulphur wines will taste so natural that they take some getting used to if you have always just drunk supermarket or ‘house’ wines from the local Trattoria.

Until joining the Buon Vino team, I was happily enjoying my supermarket wine not knowing that there was really a genuine alternative and I must admit to always thinking that I loved the wine but hated the next day.   I admit to being sceptical about the whole natural thing at first and on tasting the wines, I found them unusual at best, not nice at worst.  6 months on, I am craving freshness and vitality in my wine and really enjoy the wines with lower levels of sulphites.  Oh and yes, I feel much better on them too, (although it might mean I am just drinking more, oh dear!)

A good way to understand the idea of a natural (low-sulphur) wine is to think of other things that you eat or drink. Take orange juice for example. Compare a carton of juice made from concentrate with preservatives and compare it to squeezing a few Sicilian blood oranges to create a juice… this is the very essence of natural wine.

So basically this is all about low sulphur addition and minimal intervention in the growing and wine making processes? Yes, that is what we are talking about!

Give em a try

Cin cin

Karol Ann  – Recently joined member of the Buon Vino team and fully converted natural and low sulphur wine drinker