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Low Sulphur Wine

Sulphites in wines cause plenty of debate amongst wine makers and consumers alike. However, it is a complicated one so we will briefly try and clarify the situation.

Not only do sulphites occur naturally in wine, but they have been used in winemaking as a preservative since Roman times. Unfortunately, modern conventional winemaking has had a tendency to overdo it, using larger than necessary quantities of chemical sulphur to ensure stability. It’s this compound which contributes to hangovers and can cause reactions in some people. Biodynamic and Natural wine production seeks to readdress the issue and certified biodynamic wine is required to contain less than half the amount of SO2 permitted in conventional wine under EU law. In practise most natural wines will contain much lower levels than is permitted and some have no sulphur at all added to the wine.

Type of wine            According to European Law     According to Demeter (Biodynamic certification)
Red  160 mg/l  70 mg/l
White/Rosé 210 mg/l 90 mg/l
Sweet 400 mg/l 210 mg/l

To put this into perspective, drinking a third of a bottle of conventional white wine with 200 mg/l would take the average man over his recommended daily consumption of the compound. Some confusion lies in the fact that even bottles which have been made with no additional sulphur will most likely have ‘contains sulphites’ on the label. This is because the law requires this statement on all wines that have a total sulphur level greater than 10mg/litre, an amount that generally occurs naturally anyway.

Low sulphur levels can contribute to a different flavour profile which some conventional wine drinkers reject, particularly in white wines where less natural SO2 occurs in production, often rendering the wine more complex, yeasty and some might say, a little ‘wild’. In reds, the difference in low sulphur wine is less evident but they share a natural vibrancy and authenticity. However, low sulphur may also not have any real noticeable effect on the style of the wine.

All of the wines in our low sulphur section contain 50 mg/l or less.

'In my view these styles of wine, far from being 'whacky' in a negative way are expressive, natural and easy to enjoy. Once you drink wines with low or no added sulphur you may never want to drink anything else again!'

Robert Bagot, owner Buon Vino