Do organic wines contain sulphites - here’s the truth

In reality, no sulphite-free wine exists because sulphites are naturally present in all wine fermentation processes. On the other hand, the amount of sulphur in the wine makes the difference. 

Keep reading below to get to the bottom of this myth of sulphite-free wines. 

Producing organic wines

Organic and natural wines are made with as little intervention as possible in the winery. Winemakers who produce organic wines and natural sulphite-free wines utilise natural processes in the winery. 

They follow organic farming practises and certification requirements, which are very strict about what happens in the vineyard. There are no synthetic chemicals or toxic pesticides present in organic farming.

An organically certified wine is made entirely from organically cultivated grapes and without the use of any chemicals. This is typically why a bottle of wine is called sulphite-free.

The EU legislation & wine sulphur levels

Wine has now been classified as an organic product by Regulation (EU) No 203/2012 since August 2012. The compromise on restricting the amount of sulphites in organic wine is the primary focus of the new regulation. This implies the following sulphite levels per type of wine:

  • 100 mg per litre - organic dry red wine
  • 150 mg per litre - organic white wine
  • 150 mg per litre - organic dry rose wine

The EU requires a warning label “contains sulphites” on a wine bottle that consists of more than 10 ppm sulphite. Of course, countries vary when it comes to organic winemaking and certification and product label interpretations. Consider this in buying your bottles from a country that commonly exports wine or visiting such a country. 

Sulphites & “organically grown grapes” labels 

Sulphur dioxide can be added to produce less than 100 ppm in a bottle of finished grape wine. Take note, though, that it cannot be added to wines with other organic fruits.

Can we consider organic wines sulphite-free or low-sulphite then? Organic wines may not contain any sulphites, but they will definitely contain naturally occurring sulphites.

Now, you may be wondering that if sulphites are already present in nature, why are they added to wines? Sulphites are a type of preservative that is extensively used in the food and beverage industry to improve the shelf life of products. In the same way, they are commonly added to wine in large quantities to keep it fresh and prevent it from oxidising.

Here are some examples of sulphites:

  • Potassium bisulphite
  • Potassium metabisulphite
  • Sodium bisulphite
  • Sodium metabisulphite
  • Sodium sulphite
  • Sulphur dioxide 

Regardless of the form they take, their purpose is to keep your bottle of wine fresh. There is nothing wrong with sulphites, but we recommend refraining from trying these types of wines if you are sensitive to the substance. They may lead to serious issues if you risk doing so.

Organic wines may not always be sulphite-free, but they will have a lower amount of sulphites compared to regular wines. At the end of the day, you want to make sure you are purchasing from a reliable store and reading any labels indicated on your wine bottle to ensure safe consumption.

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