A few myths about sulphur

By Tobias Webb

The blog run by wine merchants Berry Brothers & Rudd is often a useful source of insight into various aspects of the wine sector.

They are hosting some different perspectives on the blog around sustainable/natural/organic wine at the moment.

Here’s one in particular that I thought was quite interesting, all about sulphur and wines.

The author dispels a few common myths in this post, entitled: Sulphur: the enemy of terroir? Nay (an alternative viewpoint will apparently be added soon)

Here’s a few things I took from the post, in bullet form, some quotes, some re-written:

  • “The term ‘Contains Sulphites’ became a regular fixture on wines from 2002”. (Assume that is the UK in particular, the author does not specify)
  • People often think they are connected with / cause hangovers. This appears to be largely untrue.
  • “Sulphur has been used as a preservative for wine since Roman times (not fully substantiated) or since the 1400s where it is documented as having been used in Germany”.
  • “…sulphur is widely used for food preservation and one can ingest far more from a small bag of dried fruit than from a bottle of wine”.
  • “…there is no such thing as a no-sulphur wine, SO2 is a natural by-product of alcoholic fermentation.”
  • “Sulphur benefits wine lovers in two key ways: it protects wine from oxidation and it helps keep malevolent microbial life at bay.
  • “…the addition of sulphur ensures that the consumer enjoys a wine which is free from off-flavours produced by erroneous yeasts and bacteria, and one that shows freshness rather than the Sherried notes of oxidation”
  • “Wines which are left without any sulphur addition are so vulnerable to these attacks that they can only survive when stored and transported under perfect conditions, maintaining a temperature below 14°C from the winery to the glass.”More useful posts on things like this, can be found here: http://bbrblog.com and here: Do you allow sulphites in organic wine? (Soil Association) and on good ‘ol Wikipedia (the world’s best website, it really is)

www.winefolly.com is a very good website. I bought their wine maps, which are really rather nice

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About the author

Tobias Webb

Toby Webb is co-founder of Sustainable Wine. He is also founder of Innovation Forum, a leading platform for change in sustainable supply chains. He has spent 20+ years working in business and sustainability and has spent ten years teaching the subject at various London universities. He advises a number of companies large and small on sustainability. Businesses he has worked with include Patagonia, Interface, Bayer, SOK Group, Boots/Walgreens, Metro, Unilever, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser, Sainsbury’s, and many others. He co-authored the UK’s national CSR strategy for David Cameron from 2006-10. He has been organising events, advising, teaching writing, blogging and podcasting on sustainable business since 2001. His (non-wine) blog is at www.sustainablesmartbusiness.com