Posts Tagged ‘Sulfur’

How natural do you want it?

How natural do you want it?

It nearly time again for what now appears to be an annual celebration of unsubstantiated and unsupported claims and assertions about wine. It’s time again to denigrate 99% of the worlds wine and winemakers.

Of course, I’m talking about the coming RAW WINE FAIR, a celebration of “natural” wine taking place in London on May 19 and 20. On the cusp of this important occasion, I think it appropriate to examine some of the claims that are being made about the wines being featured at RAW that have been made by the event’s founder, Isabelle Legeron, MW. Ms. Legeron was recently interviewed in the Londonist and she took that opportunity to make a variety of claims not just about “natural” wine, but all other wines not considered “natural”.

According to Ms. Legeron:
“Once grapes are harvested and taken to the cellar, natural wine growers try to intervene as little as possible. They see their role more as guardians — guiding a process that occurs naturally — rather than as trying to force the grapes or juice into particular moulds responding to market demands or trends”

I’m wondering, do only “natural” winemakers attempt as little intervention as possible? Or are there non “natural” winemakers that take this approach? Also, isn’t the process of “guiding” anything but “natural”? Isn’t it really a case of “manipulation”?

According to Ms. Legeron:
“I like wine that is alive and unmanipulated, characteristics that are surprisingly hard to come by in modern winemaking. I don’t like wines that are worked: heavily extracted, oaky, manipulated, squeaky clean and boring.”

Just how hard to come by are wines that are “alive”? What does “Alive” mean? Do only “natural” wines qualify as being “alive”? How many of the world’s wines, particularly those produced by the thousands of small artisan producers around the globe that do not claim their wines are “natural”, have you tasted in order to declare that finding wines with “alive” and “unmanipulated” characteristics are hard to find? Or are you really just making this up and offering an unsupported assertion?

According to Ms. Legeron:
“the vast majority of natural wine I come across is not only not faulty, but is deliciously complex and shows far more interesting taste profiles than conventional wine. To be frank, this isn’t really surprising either — if, as you would do in conventional winemaking, you kill off all your native bacteria and yeasts to then add lab-bred ones that have been developed to show specific aromas, you will necessarily have less complex aromatics than if nature — with its infinitesimal variations — is involved.“

Read on …

The 7 Main Wine Faults
Oxidized Wine …aka maderized wine

What it is: Contamination/chemical breakdown caused by too much oxygen exposure. Rusted metal is oxidized…it’s that same process but in your wine. Oxidization is the most common wine fault and is easy to replicate at home with any bottle of wine.
How you can tell: Oxidized wines lose their brightness, both in color and in flavor. Bright reds turn to brick color or brownish, and fresh tastes develop drier, more bitter characteristics. White wines are much more susceptible to oxidization than reds, because reds’ higher tannin levels act as a buffer. If you really want to see what this looks like: open a new bottle, pour a glass and save that bottle for about a week. Congrats, your bottle is ruined. Drink some and compare it to that first glass you had.
Can I fix it? No, but you can prolong the shelf life of opened wine by using a wine preserving tool. If your bottle is oxidized right off the shelf, it was either poorly sealed or mishandled. Take it back!

2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA) …aka cork taint

What it is: A chemical containment that found its way into your bottle somewhere in production, usually from the wooden cork. TCA can be present in oak barrels, or the processing lines at the winery as well, which leads to entire batches, rather than single bottles, being ruined.
How you can tell: Dank odor and taste like wet newspaper, moldy basement or smelly dog. It’s estimated that over 2% of bottles are tainted with TCA to some degree, making it the second most common wine fault.
Can I fix it? Andrew Waterhouse, professor of wine chemistry at the UC Davis, claims you can pour the wine into a bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap. The TCA will be attracted to the polyethylene and pulled from your wine. I say life is too short for fixing wine faults. Send that bottle back!

Sulfur Compounds

What it is: Sulfur is a common additive to wine typically used to prevent other wine faults found in this article (ironically). Sometimes things can go wrong in its deployment though, and sulfur levels that are out of whack are pretty easy to notice.
How you can tell: There are 4 primary sulfur compounds that can give your wine some funk, but they all manifest themselves in terrible flavors and smells. If you notice rotten egg, fart, burnt rubber, skunk, or asparagus pee in your wine, you probably have a sulfur problem.
Can I fix it? The offending flavor can be weakened through decanting (watch this). If it is strong though, you should send it back from whence it came.

Read on …

CLICK to download PDF of Common Wine Faults

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Sulfur dioxide is used to stop wine oxidizing and spoiling, but it can cause health problems for some people. A three-year, $5-million EU-funded project has now discovered a potential replacement for SO2.

European researchers are close to finding an effective alternative to adding sulfur dioxide to red wine and other foodstuffs, which could make future holiday seasons happier and healthier for millions.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2), often labeled as E220, is used as a preservative for certain dried fruits and in winemaking as an antimicrobial and antioxidant. Most people can tolerate a small amount of SO2 in their food and wine, but for others it can cause allergic reactions or have other side effects such as headaches.

The European Union-funded so2say project believes it may now have identified a combination of two extracts that can be used instead. Both of them occur naturally in wine and could reduce the presence of SO2 by more than 95 percent, say researchers.

Read on …

Also read:

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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