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Sulphites in Wine

Discover the role of sulphites in wine.

Bunches of white grapes for winemaking harvested in the grape harvest box. Out-of-focus background of the vineyard. Photo by Thomas Schaefer from Unsplash.

For those of us who enjoy a glass of wine, it's important to understand what we are actually drinking. Sulphites have been used as a preservative for centuries, but their presence in wine is often misunderstood. Chris Parker, the certified Sommelier, is here to explain the role of sulphites in wine.

The first thing to note is we're talking about additional sulfites that winemakers might add during the wine-making process to stabilize the wine and stop turning it into vinegar. 

If you're looking to find wines with lower levels of sulfur, the first place to start is with organic and biodynamic vineyards. These wineries are certified, and they're going to be working in a way that means they're using a lower number of different compounds in the vineyard and in the wineries. So their wines are likely to have lower levels of sulfur.

Natural wines

The next thing to note is we can look towards orange and natural wines as well. These wines are made in the most traditional methods, the winemakers are adding the smallest amount of sulfur all the way through the winemaking.

Rounded clear glass carafes filled with orange wine, resting on a stone wall. In the background, clusters of trees enveloping the vineyards. Greyish blue sky with threatening storm clouds. Photo by Diane Picchiottino from Unsplash.

These wines, again, are going to have the lowest levels that we can get naturally in wine

The last thing to know is if we drink red wines, they will generally have lower levels of sulfur than white wines. But of course, there's going to be some room for bearing from there. 

In conclusion, sulphites are an important part of the winemaking process. They help to maintain the quality and shelf life of wine, while not having a significant effect on its flavour. 

However, some people are sensitive to these compounds and experience health problems as a result. It is important for those affected to be aware of this and take steps to avoid high levels of sulphite exposure if they can. The best way to do this is to choose organic wines, which use minimal or no added sulphites.