Low Sulfite Wines Command Price Premium (by Rebecca Gibb)

Posted: December 12, 2012 by wynmaker in Oenology, Research, Uncategorized, Vinification, Wine, Winemaking, World wine news
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headache-illustration

 

New research finds that those who suffer from headaches would pay for less sulfites in their wine.

Sulfur dioxide use in winemaking has been coming under the spotlight as a minimal-intervention movement agitates for less reliance on the compound. Sulfur has taken flak for causing health problems, although the scientific community is divided on the issue.

That prompted a Colorado State University study of consumer perceptions of sulfites and whether drinkers would pay more for a bottle labeled “low in sulfur.”

The findings, published by the American Association of Wine Economists, are that consumers would be willing to pay a little extra — about 64 cents — for wines that contain low levels of sulfites. In comparison, the premium placed on organic wine is $1.22 — nearly double — which suggests public awareness of the addition of sulfur is embryonic.

The researchers offer an alternative explanation. Consumers, in their view, are aware that “organic production protocol prohibits, among other things, the use of added sulfites.” In other words, if drinkers pay the extra for organic wine, low sulfites will be included in the package.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) — in the form of potassium metabisulfite — is added to most wines and many other food products for its antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. The term “sulfites” on wine labels refers mainly to sulfur dioxide, but also includes sulfurous acid and other sulfites.

But sulfur dioxide is also a natural by-product of fermentation, so it is unlikely an SO2-free wine could ever be produced. Most yeast strains yield 10–20 milligrams per liter of SO2 during fermentation, although some, such as FX10 and M69, produce significantly more than others. Without sulfur, wine is prone to oxidation and spoilage.

Consumers have been asking questions about SO2 since wine labels started to carry a “contains sulfites” message. Sulfite mentions, after all, share label space with warnings that women should not drink during pregnancy, and against drinking and driving.

Although a small number of drinkers suffer ill effects from sulfites,… read on

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  1. […] Low Sulfite Wines Command Price Premium (by Rebecca Gibb) […]

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