What is a sulfite free wine? This is wine that is devoid of added sulfite. Naturally sulfites may be produced as by-products of the process of fermentation. On the other hand, wine makers add minute amounts of sulfites to wine for preservation and to prevent oxidation. This is important for maturity of wine as sulfite free wines aren’t flavorful, spoil easily and lacks balance. 

How to spot sulfite free wine

For wineries to make wine, fermentation is necessary. Therefore, scientifically we can’t say with absolute surety that a wine contains no sulfites. However, they are present in tiny amounts and pose no risk to most people. What are the alternatives you may ask? A low level sulfite containing wine is a good bet. By low I mean any amount of sulfite less than 100 part per million. You will find this amount and most probably less in wines labeled “Organic Wine”.  This is the official figure stipulated by USDA Organic Standard. Important to note is that this amount is present is due to fermentation. Wine less than 18 months old with no added sulfites is highly probable in this range.

Sulfite free wine wineries  

Wineries that produce organic wines must get their raw material- the grapes, from certified growers of organic grapes. This means no chemical fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides were used on the vines. Basically the certificate should come from a third party certification agency. The rule here is that in case the wineries add sulfites for preservation purposes, then the total sulfites amount should not exceed 100 part per million. An excess of this measurement in wine, the wineries have a duty to label “contains sulfites” on the wine bottle or container.

Some sulfite free wines and wineries that produce them include Zinfandel from Frey Vineyards and The prospector Mourvedre (2010) from Donkey & Goat.

Tips and nuggets of information regarding sulfites in wine

  • Something worth to note is that wine is on the bottom corner of foods that contain sulfites. So this may bust the misconception that that after-wine-drinking headache is as a result of sulfites in the wine.
  • If after opening a bottle of wine that was stored at warm temperature, a “funny” smell hits your nostrils, then you just smelt sulfur dioxide. Good thing you can fix this by chilling the wine or decanting.
  • Red wines need smaller amounts of sulfite than white wine. (Myth busted!). Tannins present in the red wines have anti-oxidative effect hence less sulfites needed.
  • Sulfites free wine or more correctly low sulfites wine may not be readily available. The explanation here is their relatively short shelf life. In addition, making of a low sulfites wine requires skill and additional measures and hence commercial viability could be jeopardized.  
  • One advantage of sulfites free wines is the lack of a bitter taste experienced with other wines. I guess the 1% Americans with sulfites intolerance will be happy to know this.