Preservatives in Wine

by Bec

Bec asks:


I have asked two different bottleshop proprietors about whether they stock preservative free wine and both told me that apart from the naturally occurring sulfites in the wine, the 'added' sulfites composed of only a 'gas' being pumped into the empty space in the neck of the bottle to prevent the wine being contaminated or spoiling. This sounded a little odd to me and I've searched the net to verify without success. So, am I being fed a line of you know what?


Darby says


The sulphur level in wine does vary considerably. Winemakers are anxious to stop thier wine spoiling and are over zealous in adding sulphur based preservatives, either as sulphur dioxide gas or as metabisulphite (a powder).

In low doses (or zero withjust the naturally occuring sulphur) it is not detectable and probably does no harm, but in higher doses it makes the wine smelly and can cause a headache or allergic reaction. People vary in their sensitivity. The sulphur dioxide is given off when the wine is opened and breathed. If you decant the wine you will also get rid of some of the sulphur.

Your bottleshop guys were probably right, but the practices, attitudes to preservatives and levels of care vary betweeen winemakers. If they are selling low preservative wine it is likely to have had sulphur added in the way they describe.


Another question about Sulphur in wine is answered here. There is an excellent article available via my comment on that question, and organic winemaker Duncan Harris also comments about sulphur preservatives.

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