What are Low Sulphite Wines?
You see “contains sulphites” on every bottle of wine that contains more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulphites or 10 milligrams per litre. It is necessary to label wines such, as it is estimated that around 1% of people have some sort of allergy to Sulphites. Severe asthma sufferers are particularly prone as are people without the necessary enzymes to break down Sulphur Dioxide.
Sulphites often are blamed for a headache after drinking wine, however that maybe misleading, as tannins, histamines and, of course, the alcohol are also prime suspects.
Sulphur Dioxide, to which “Sulphites” refers, is a naturally occurring bi-product of the fermentation process during winemaking, so all wine contains some sulphites at a level of about 10 ppm before additional sulphites are added. Therefore, nearly every bottle of wine you come by has the Sulphites warning.
Sulphur Dioxide is widely used in the food industry as a preservative at much greater levels than those used in the Wine industry. For example, dried fruits contain up to ten times the number of Sulphites than that of the average bottle of wine.
Sulphites are added by the wine maker to stabilise and preserve the wine and make the wine more consumer friendly. Generally, less sulphites are added to red wine than white, rosé or dessert wines as tannins in the red wine act as a natural stabilizing and aging agent. Dry and delicate white wines require more sulphites to preserve them
Occasionally you will see the phrase “No added Sulphites” on a wine label. This means that there are natural sulphites contained in the wine, however the Winemaker has not added additional Sulphur Dioxide.
As a guide the upper limits on wine are Red Wine 150 parts per million (150mg per litre)200ppm for white and Rosé and up to 400 ppm for dessert wine.
If you want avoid Sulphites it is best to stick with Organic, Biodynamic or natural wines where the upper levels of sulphur are controlled and are included in the certification.
If you want to further reduce the effects of sulphites, open and decant your wine 20 minutes before consumption to allow some of the sulphites to be released into the atmosphere.
To find out more there is a good article in this link:
What are Organic wines
There are two main definitions of an organic wine in circulation:
Europe: “a wine made from certified organically grown grapes and vinified organically but may contain added sulphites”
USA: “a wine made from certified organically grown grapes without added sulphites”
In Europe the Organic process for certification is managed by Ecocert and all wines approved carry the green leaf Ecocert logo.
Organic Wine Certification extends to both the viticulture (growing the grapes) and the viniculture (making the wine)
Organic Vitification (Grape growing)
The Growers must not use Synthetic or Artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides to manage the vineyard. Instead they are encouraged to use:
Introduction of predatory insects to manage insects which damage the Vines or grapes
Using a “Bordeaux mixture” of water, copper sulphate and lime to combat Mildew
Planting other plants between the vines to encourage pollination. Roses are popular at the end of the rows of vines.
Use of manure and natural composts.
Grazing of geese, chickens and rabbits between the vines both cuts competing plants and fertilizes naturally
Organic Vinification (Wine making)
According to Ecocert the following practises are prohibited
- Elimination of Sulphur Dioxide by physical processes
- Sorbic acid prohibited
- Partial de-alcoholisation of wine
- Partial concentration of wines through cooling
- Sulphite levels permitted in the table below.
Maximum Sulphite levels allowed in Organic wine making:
Reds- 100mg/litre for reds (conventional at 150mg/L) if under 2mg/L residual sugar.
120mg/Litre for reds (conventional at 150mg/L) if over 2mg/L residual sugar
Whites- 150mg/Litre for whites and roses (conventional at 200mg/L) if under 2mg/L residual sugar.
130 mg/Litre for whites and roses (conventional 200mg/L) if over 2mg/L residual sugar.
Sweet- 270mg/Litre for sweet (without botrytis) wines (conventional at 300mg/L)
370 mg/L for sweet botrytis wines (400mg/L for conventional)
What are Biodynamic wines
Biodynamic wines are both Organic and adhere to the regulations set out by the Demeter Association, who govern and certify, as of 2017, 603 wineries worldwide, covering 19 countries and 13,158 hectares of Vineyards.
Certification extend to both the viticulture (growing the grapes) and the viniculture (making the wine)
Key differences to organic wine.
When treating the vines and the soil the compost must be biodynamically produced as must any field sprays to combat, mildew, insects or disease.
The Vineyard as part of an Ecosystem is central to the Biodynamic culture. The grape crop growing cycle follows a timetable that is determined by astrological influences and the lunar cycle.
Only naturals yeasts are permitted to ferment the wine. Acidity adjustments are not permitted in the wine making process.
So, it is possible to have a wine made “using biodynamic grapes”, but it would only be Biodynamic if the Grapes were both farmed biodynamically and the Vintner followed the stricter Biodynamic rules such as Sulphite use, natural yeast and the control of acidity.
What are Natural Wines?
Natural wines are at the zenith of pure wine making. It is both extremely risky for the producer and enormously satisfying when everything goes well! Definitions vary from country to country, but the essence is this.
Whilst no official body exists to control exactly what constitutes a natural wine, each country or grower or group of growers has their own charter, which is usually much stricter than any Organic or Biodynamic regulations.
The basic principles of producing a natural wine is that either Organically or Biodynamically Vitified grapes must be used.
The vinification must add nor subtract anything in the production process in the cellar. No additives or processing aids permitted. Adjustments to the fermentation process kept to a minimum. Finally, no filtration or fining before bottling.
So, in effect the result is a living wine. A microcosm of the terroir expressed in liquid form, naturally. The longevity of such wines is drastically reduced so they tend to be drunk young.
To produce natural wine, it has to be a philosophy and way of life. Producers are always one step away from a force of nature taking their entire crop or an issue such as re-fermentation in bottle or Vat can destroy a years work.
What is Sustainable farming?
Some wineries are not Organic or Biodynamic but follow sustainable viticulture. One issue with organic viticulture is that only Copper sulphate is allowed in disease protection. Copper sulphate does not readily degrade under normal environmental conditions, though it is highly soluble in water. This makes run-off particularly dangerous, since a concentration of less than 1mg per litre will kill 50 percent of exposed fish within 48 hours. Conversely, copper sulphate is relatively immobile when it enters the soil, binding tightly with both organic matter and clay particles. Therefore, total copper concentration in soils can readily accumulate, especially in older vineyards or those with a high susceptibility to fungal diseases, sometimes attaining quite startling levels.
Sustainability refers to a range of practices that are ecologically sound, but also economically viable and socially responsible. Sustainable agriculture’s focus is to minimize environmental impacts. A large majority of sustainable practices are in fact organic but the winery has the flexibility to choose what works best for each individual block of vineyards. Typically, the focus would be on energy and water conservation, natural predators, natural weed control, the use of renewable resources and the reduction of carbon footprint
What are Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly Wines
How can a product made from plants be not suitable for Vegans? Well it it’s all about the final filtration and how the winery allows the wine to clear and drop bright with the use of “finings” to “fine” the wine. Without assistance wine may have to rest in vats for months before clearing the small particles of wine pulp and dead yeast. Most white wine is best drunk young so commercial reality clicks in. Cloudy wine, red or white, is not the easy on the eye, so using a substance to speed the clearing process up makes sense. The finings do not remain in the wine as they are filtered out along with the particles they clung to as the fell through the vat of wine.
Many finings are made from animal-based production. If they are animal based clearly the wine will not be suitable for Vegans. However, some are carbon or clay based such as Bentonite. Wines fined with Bentonite, Carbon or synthetic finings are Vegan friendly. Vegetarians are permitted dairy products so the fining casein which is milk based is suitable.
Types of finings to explain the labelling
- Casein, which is a milk protein (suitable for Vegetarians)
- Albumin, which is found in egg whites (non-Vegan, non-Vegetarian)
- Gelatine, a type of animal protein from bone or hooves (non-Vegan, non-Vegetarian)
- Isinglass, a fish bladder protein (non-Vegan, non-Vegetarian)
- Bentonite, clay based (suitable for Vegans and Vegetarians)
- Carbon (suitable for Vegans and Vegetarians)
- Polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP) a synthetic fining (suitable for Vegans and Vegetarians)
Templar Wines – Wine Lists
To ensure our customers can easily find their wine of choice, we use the following Legend 9(Fig1) to explain the wine making method of each wine. For more detail clients can also refer to the bottle labelling. A summary of various Organic and Sustainable labels are shown in Fig 2. below
Templar Wines stock 200 wines that fall into one or more of the Organic, Biodynamic, vegetarian, Vegan, Sustainable or Natural classifications. One of our Organic wines is even Foot Trodden!!