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The sulphites in the wine: are they necessary?

Sulphur dioxide (or sulphur dioxide – SO2) is a colourless gas, with a pungent odor. Despite its toxicity, it is used as an additive, along with its derivatives, in all food fields, including oenology.

The use of sulphur as an antiseptic, both during fermentation and for the preservation of wine, is a very old practice. During the vinification phase, it carries out selective action, inhibiting the development of yeasts and harmful bacteria in favour of the healthier ones; It satisfies the extraction of colouring substances; Protects musts from oxidation. During the refinement it contributes to the preservation of the organoleptic characteristics of the wine, because it prevents the formation of harmful microorganisms like acetic bacteria.


But its qualities have meant that in the past (and even today in some cases) has been abused: The result are products that are remembered for the famous “headache of the day after.” Today, sulphur limits are fixed by law: up to 160 mg/l for Reds and not more than 210 mg/l for whites and rosates are allowed. That’s why white wines give more “to the head”… in fact they need a greater quantity of sulphites to preserve themselves intact.

It is also important to know that in Organic wine The limits are only lower… 100 mg/L for Reds and 150 mg/l for whites. It is in fact impossible to have a wine without sulphites! Also because the wine naturally produces a small amount of sulphites in fermentation… By law, therefore, if the total amount of sulphur dioxide exceeds even 10 mg/l, it should be indicated on the label with the words “contains sulphites”.

Sulphites and Health

Despite the sulphites being among the most detested chemical components used in oenology, to this day no alternatives were found to offer antiseptic actions and preservatives equally effective, as well as healthier for humans. However, it should be stressed that they are present in many packaged foods, for example in jams, dried fruit, fruit juices, cold meats, products in oil, dehydrated potatoes and, of course, wine and beer.

It is to be said that sulphur dioxide, if kept within these levels, is not detrimental to health, the organism being able to dispose of them by itself. The only contraindications are for individuals prone to headaches from sulphites or allergic to them. If a company is able to pay particular attention to the various stages of the most delicate vinification, it can afford to hold a low level of sulphites, which is a very good thing. This is what our company proposes, which seeks to keep the levels of sulphites as the same as those of an organic wine.

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