The Myth of Sulfite-Free Wines

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If you’re still reading this (meaning you’ve made it past the title), congratulations! We’re glad you’re as curious as we are regarding this important subject. The topic in this article is a hot one among impassioned lovers of fine organic wines, so we’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room. To do that, let’s begin with the legal definition of organic vino. Current standards of organic winemaking in the United States dictate that no sulfites may be added to a wine labeled “organic.” Some refer to these organic wines as “sulfite-free,” when what they really mean is that these wines are “no sulfite added” (NSA). In short, United States Department of Agriculture (NSDA) organic wine is also no sulfite added wine.

The goal of the team at wine.net is to take the tricky topic of sulfites in wine and make it a more accessible one. In other words, we want to illuminate what is available on the organic and no sulfite added wine marketplace and explain how these wines are made. We have written this article because we are in the business of gathering and disseminating helpful information (rather than that of politics and market grabbing), and we hope you enjoy our findings. Ultimately, the goal of this article is to spark conversation between consumers and producers and encourage our readers to begin doing their own research on this vibrant topic.shutterstock_106839602

Some vineyards (and retailers) refer to no sulfite added (NSA) wines as being sulfite-free.

While researching The Myth of Sulfite-Free Wines, we discovered Good Wine Online, which specializes in what they call “natural” wines. By this, they mean wines that are “either sulfite free (no added sulfites), or [those with an] extremely low sulfite content.” It is very important to note that Good Wine Online refers to NSA wines as being sulfite-free, as this assumption is a common one. According to our research, though, sulfite free wines and no sulfite added wines are NOT the same thing. Regardless, Good Wine Online offers hosts of delicious no sulfite added wines on their website, including Domaine Viret Rouge, Frey Vineyards Red Blend, Château La Coste Cirgues Red Blend, Domaine D’Anglas Dry Rosé, and Domaine Mayrac Blanquette de Limoux Brut, all of which they describe as being “delicious and actively good for you.” According to Good Wine Online, consumers may choose to buy NSA wines due to an allergy or a desire to switch to “an actively healthy alternative.” No matter your reason for buying NSA wine, the most important thing is that you understand the differences between organic, sulfite-free, and no sulfite added wines.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 12.54.58 PMGood Wine Online is a British online retailer specializing in selling the best wines, many of which are organic or no sulfite added. Learn more at www.goodwineonline.co.uk/acatalog and @goodwine_online on Twitter.

 

 

Always read what the experts have to say before buying.

The wine.net team had the pleasure of speaking with Veronique Raskin, an authority in the field of organic wine and the owner of the Organic Wine Company, which she founded in 1980. Ms. Raskin’s ancestors purchased Domaine de la Bousquette from the Catholic Church around the time of the French Revolution in 1789, and it has been in the family ever since. This small property is nestled in rocky, pine-filled hills in the Languedoc region, close to the city of Carcassone. Fast forward to 1989, when her brother Michael (the winemaker at that time) decided to create a wine to honor his sister’s pioneering efforts to promote organic viticulture and organic wines in the United States. We strongly recommend you check out the La Bousquette brand, the Prestige, the Tradition, and perhaps most especially, the Chateau Veronique, a delicious red blend that has been among the vineyard’s top selling wines for 25 years. Chateau Veronique combines 30% carignane, 30% grenache, 20% syrah, and 20% mourvedre, and features “dry, jammy fruit flavors of plum, black cherry, and blackberry [that are] enhanced by hints of black pepper [and] an excellent match for just about any dish.” Learn more by visiting www.theorganicwinecompany.com or calling 1-888-ECOWINE.

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Image Source: http://theorganicwinecompany.com

When we spoke with Ms. Raskin, she emphasized the distinct difference between so-called sulfite free wines and no sulfite added vino. She also clearly explained the distinctions between organic wine rules in the United States and those in other countries. Our conversation with Ms. Raskin was extremely helpful, and we are excited to share her expertise with the rest of the world. When searching for no sulfite added wines, Ms. Raskin recommends anything from Badger Mountain Vineyard, which is a certified organic winery in Washington State. They offer a wide selection of no sulfite added wines, and their status as a USDA Organic Certified vineyard is exactly what you want to look for when searching for no sulfite added vino. You can purchase Badger Mountain’s wines via www.badgermtnvineyard.com/bmv_nsa_list.html and http://store.theorganicwinecompany.com/badger-mountain-nsa-cabernet-sauvignon-2014-p1408.aspx.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 12.57.37 PMVeronique Raskin founded The Organic Wine Company in 1980, which specializes in vegan, biodynamic, no sulfite added, and organic wines. Learn more at http://theorganicwinecompany.com/about/ and @organicwineco on Twitter.

 

 

Search for lists of certified organic and NSA wines online (they’re out there!)

Organic wine expert and founder of OrganicAuthority.com Laura Klein recommended we check out her website for a list of organic and sulfite-free wines. The article we found there is another example of the murkiness surrounding the distinction between no sulfite added and sulfite free wines. According to Jill Ettinger, senior editor and featured columnist at the Organic Authority, “the addition of sulfur dioxide [sulfites] to wines is a practice used to reduce oxidation and give wine longer shelf lives, but these added sulfites have come under scrutiny for a connection to allergies, headaches, and other health concerns. Some wine drinkers and manufacturers even see it as an unnatural addition to a treasured practice. Progressive winemakers have taken this under advisement, and now offer a number of sulfite-free wines.” In this instance, as was the case with Good Wine Online, sulfite-free means no sulfite added.

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Ms. Ettinger has compiled an outstanding list of no sulfite added wines. Her first three recommendations are Cantina Pizzolato’s merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and red blend. She also recommends Bodegas Iranzo’s Spartico tempranillo, and her final suggestion is Frey Vineyards’ organic natural red. When we spoke with Nathan of Frey Vineyards (which is, by the way, America’s first organic and biodynamic winery), he confirmed that all of Frey Vineyard’s wines are certified no sulfite added, including both their organic and biodynamic wines, and their list of Pacific Redwood wines is certified NSA as well. To learn more, visit http://www.freywine.com/Our-Winemaking-Philosophy/No-Sulfites-Added. You can also find out more about organic, NSA, and biodynamic wines at http://www.organicauthority.com/juicy-spirits/5-organic-and-sulfite-free-wine-picks.html and @OrganicAuthorit on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 12.59.42 PMLaura Klein is devoted to conscious foodie culture and healthy living. She and her website, www.organicauthority.com, were named as one of the top 35 diet and nutrition experts to follow on Twitter by the Huffington Post. Learn more at www.organicauthority.com and @OrganicAuthorit on Twitter.

 

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Jill Ettinger is the senior editor and featured columnist on EcoSalon and it’s sister website, Organic Authority and is also the site co-director at Eat Drink Better. Visit www.jillettinger.com and @jillettinger on Twitter to learn more.

 

Always consult more than one list of great organic and NSA wines–knowledge is power!

When we were searching for suggestions regarding the best no sulfite added wines, Organic Wine Find proved to be a gold mine. Their website also clearly reinforced that no sulfite added wine is the closest thing you can get to a sulfite free wine, because all wines have naturally occurring sulfites. Organic Wine Find explained that “most organic wines have small amounts of added sulfites to protect them from spoilage–a ‘non-organic’ compromise to ensure a high quality organic wine.” Their list of “organic wines made without added sulfites [is full of wines with] a solid reputation” for quality vino and high standards. Their list includes Marcel Lapierre’s beaujolais, all of Stellar Organic Winery’s wines, any Domaine Pierre Frick wines, Battle of Bosworth Winery’s organic shiraz, and Terre des Chardons’ red blends. Additionally, Organic Wine Find echoes Good Wine Online and Ms. Ettinger’s endorsements of Frey Vineyards and Bodegas Iranzo. You can learn more about these delightful selections at http://organicwinefind.com/articles/best-organic-wines-without-sulfites/ and @OrganicWineFind on Twitter.

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Organic Wine Find is the web’s largest online directory of organic vineyards and their wines. Learn more by visiting www.organicwinefind.com and @OrganicWineFind on Twitter.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Hi, John here from Goodwineonline.co.uk. I’ve just discovered your site – so thank you for mentioning us. Just to clear up the difference between NSA wines and sulphite free wines, in both the USA and the EU the legal definition of “sulphite free wine” is a wine containing no more than 10 mg/l TOTAL SO2 and 5 mg/l FREE SO2. Please note it has to satisfy both these conditions to qualify as sulphite free. Hence we class many of our NSA wines as sulphite free as they fall below these limits. It is of course possible to get NSA wines which contain above this level of naturally occurring sulphites so they can’t be classed as sulphite free legally. However they can be treated as sulphite free as these sulphites are harmless in these tiny quantities. We recommend anybody with a sulphite allergy aim for wines containing less than 25 mg/l FREE SO2 although limits per individual may vary.

  2. Do you have any idea how long sulfite free red wine lasts? I have an unopened bottle my mom gave me about a year ago… (Bottled 2013 though) Is it still good or should I toss? Thanks!

    • Ross Halleck says:

      Hi Mary, It’s impossible to tell how long a wine will age, with or without sulfites. In fact, every wine is different and sulfites play little to no role in whether a wine will age or not. The best ways to determine are the reputation of the producer, recent tasting notes for the specific wine online, or by just calling the producer and asking them. Good luck! Ross Halleck, Halleck Vineyard.

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