Sulfite-free does exist - Printable Version

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- TimP - 01-08-2010 02:47 PM

I have seen some misinformation regarding sulfites in wine, and I have to correct them. I am the production manager at a winery in Missouri that produces sulfite-free wines. Yes, it is possible. We send our wines to an independent lab for testing and, using those results, have been given permission by the government (TTB) to state on our labels "Contains no detectable sulfites." These wines contain 0 (zero) ppm of sulfites.
Adding no sulfites really opens up the range of impressions, especially in our Cab Franc. Sulfites mute flavors and aromas.
I do not want to make this an advertisement, but a search for "sulfite-free wines" in Missouri will probably lead those interested to us.

- winoweenie - 01-08-2010 07:08 PM

Hi Tim and welcome to the board. Being a graduate of the University of Missouri and a winw lover I have but one question... Who gives a rats' patootie? WW

- Innkeeper - 01-08-2010 08:07 PM

A welcome from me too. I always thought that sulfites occurred naturally in wine. So, are you adding some of those unnatural compounds to your wine to remove the natural sulfites?

The only reason why I'm asking this is because people in other parts of the country and possibly in MO as well; are adding unnatural compounds to add or reduce acid or alcohol in wine. These developments concern me very much. I would much rather drink the natural sulfites in wine, than to have them removed with one of these unnatural compounds.

- TimP - 01-08-2010 08:22 PM

I know there are dozens of chemicals that one can legally add to wine, but we add only tartaric acid when the pH is too high--and possibly some sugar if Brix is slightly low. We closely monitor pH and alcohol content to compensate for not adding sulfites, so we add nothing else. We also keep the cellar sanitary. Shelf life is fine.

- Innkeeper - 01-08-2010 09:48 PM

I'm sorry Tim, but you did not my question about the natural sulfites in wine.

- Kcwhippet - 01-08-2010 11:31 PM

Sorry, Tim, but I believe you may have been misinformed somewhere along the line. There is absolutely no wine produced anywhere that contains 0 ppm of sulfites. "Contains no detectable sulfites" and "0 (zero) ppm of sulfites" (quotes are your words) are two entirely different statements. In the first instance, any wine that contains more than 10 ppm sulfites MUST be labelled "Contains Sulfites". Under 10 ppm sulfites can be labelled "No sulfites added". Slightly less than that can be labelled "No detectable sulfites", mainly because of the testing equipment. This last DOES NOT mean that the wine contains zero ppm sulfites. Check the regs again.

- TimP - 01-09-2010 01:16 AM

I am glad there is some interest in this topic. Wine fermentation does create some amount of naturally occuring sulfites, but they dissipate or "blow off" during oak storage and normal aging. Most wineries add sulfites at several times in the winemaking process.
Second point--the lab that tests our wines declared that they found 0 ppm in our wines, and their testing capabilities are sensitive down to 1 ppm. Kcwhippet is correct in that TTB regs allow a tiny concentration to still be labeled "no detectable sulfites," but ours really have zero. I fully admit that 1 ppm versus 9ppm is a tiny, tiny difference. Even 9ppm would affect hardly anyone.
Many wines from rural, household winemakers have 0 ppm because they simply do not add any at any time. A certain concentration is produced naturally, but it all (or most) dissipates by bottling time.

- dananne - 01-09-2010 01:45 AM

Not directly on the issue of sulfites, I wanted to ask about your Cab Franc. I know you do a very nice job with MO Norton, and you make a sweet red from Concord, but are you still making your Cab Franc with Cali juice, or have you shifted production to your own grapes? If your own CF are producing, how are they doing? I live on a 40-acre hobby farm in MO (in Saline Co, somewhat near the little hamlet of Arrow Rock), and I'm putting in a small vineyard devoted mostly to Norton and Chambourcin. I'll possibly add a little Seyval or Chardonel, as well. I hadn't planned to experiment with CF, but would be happy to do so if I thought I might be able to make it work. Any thoughts would be very welcome. And, welcome to the board. You'll find a very knowledgeable and friendly group here, many of whom are also ITB.

- TimP - 01-09-2010 12:52 PM

Production is shifting to estate Cab Franc. We lost a lot of vines with that Easter freeze 2 years ago, but I think that is an anomoly. I do think Cab Franc can grow well in your area under normal growing conditions. I know another Mid MO winery is planting it.
Thanks for the Norton compliment--it is an interesting grape to work with, and I think we've figured out ow to avoid the herbaceousness to prevalent in many Nortons. Love Arrow Rock.

- Thomas - 01-09-2010 04:04 PM

Two questions from me:

1. Which sulfites are you referring to--total (bound) or free?

2. In which part of MO do your grapes grow? I'm curious about the fact that you can have high pH out your way--something that takes rare and special conditions to achieve here in the Finger Lakes.

- dananne - 01-09-2010 08:31 PM

If it's the winery I think it is, they're located in the Ozarks, SE of the capitol of Jefferson City.

- Kcwhippet - 01-09-2010 11:59 PM

Thanks, Thomas.

- TimP - 01-10-2010 01:23 PM

The TTB regulations call for testing the free sulfites.
Our appellation is Ozark Mountain, and our vineyards are about 15 miles southeast of Jefferson City, MO.
We do have to add some tartaric acid to lower pH. I know in warmer climates the issue is sometimes too low pH (that is, too acidic). It is a little more difficult to raise the pH than to lower it, but have never had that problem.

- Thomas - 01-10-2010 03:51 PM


"I know in warmer climates the issue is sometimes too low pH (that is, too acidic)."

You've got the acid/pH information backwards.

Low sugar, high acid/low pH is a cool climate profile.

As sugars rise in a warm climate, acid drops/pH rises.

There are minor exceptions to the rule, but those are anomaly years (at least in a cool climate).

Either an addition of calcium carbonate or ml fermentation will raise pH.

[This message has been edited by foodie (edited 01-10-2010).]

- TimP - 01-10-2010 10:20 PM

Yes--you're correct on grape acidity. Sorry.

- Thomas - 01-11-2010 10:11 AM


I have one other question that occurred to me last night, after I posted.

What health benefit do you think is connected to lowering SO2 use in the wine?

This is one issue that doesn't seem to be talked about properly and I'm always curious why a winery chooses to reduce or eliminate the addition.

Statistically, less than 1% of the adult population may have a respiratory reaction to the free SO2 in wine, and not all adults drink wine. So the statistic shows that risk with wine is minuscule, especially after you consider that many packaged foods, dried fruits, etc. generally contain more sulfites than wine.

- TimP - 01-11-2010 11:07 AM

Salad bars at restaurants also typically have a large concentration of sulfites. Our main reason for holding back on the sulfites (and other chemical additives) is to make a better wine. Expression is really opened up in wines without the muting effect of SO2.
Many of our fans also like to avoid unnecessary chemicals in their food. A small group of asthamatics have to avoid sulfites, but there are many people who perceive sulfites and other added chemicals as being bad for their bodies. Some wineries are highly concerned about proposals concerning full disclosure on wine labels (which probably won't happen). If the wine is handled properly, sulfites really make the winemaker's job easier but do not help make a better wine--in my opinion.

- Kcwhippet - 01-11-2010 01:53 PM


Some of your info seems to be a bit dated when you state "Salad bars at restaurants also typically have a large concentration of sulfites." Way back in 1986, the FDA banned the use of sulfites on fresh fruits and vegetables that are eaten raw. So, it's been illegal to use any sulfites in salad bars for about 24 years.

[This message has been edited by Kcwhippet (edited 01-11-2010).]

- Thomas - 01-11-2010 03:03 PM

"Expression is really opened up in wines without the muting effect of SO2."

I dispute that statement, because the majority of wines in the world contain sulfites, so you'd be saying that the majority of wines offer muted expression, which simply is not true.

"Many of our fans also like to avoid unnecessary chemicals in their food."

I assume that you are aware that sulfur dioxide is a naturally occurring phenomenon, the result of decomposing vegetation, smoke, fermentation, as in bread, cheese, and yogurt. Do you ask your fans if they require that sulfites be removed from those products? And do they know that they produce sulfites while digesting food?

Tim, it's one thing to want to produce wine without ANY intervention (which should include no acid and/or sugar additions, if you are serious about the natural process). It's quite another thing to make claims that simply don't hold up under scrutiny.

[This message has been edited by foodie (edited 01-11-2010).]

- TimP - 01-11-2010 08:12 PM

Maybe sulfited wines would offer increased expression without the sulfites. Who knows? Also, people have told me they want to limit sulfites as much as possible. And, of course, my perceived expression in wine is my opinion. Sheesh.