Sulfites in Wine Kits
A Word on Sulfites and Wine Kits....
We’re often asked how to make wine with little or no sulfites. Many people are sensitive to sulfites, to varying degrees, and feel that complete elimination of sulfites from their wine is the proper solution. While this is certainly possible, and even necessary for those with absolute intolerance for sulfites, it’s not a solution we recommend. If you are concerned about the sulfites in wine you should understand the follows:
First of all, note that the sulfite level in home wine kits is extremely low to begin with. In fact, residual levels of sulfites in wine kits are about 1/4 as much as found in commercial wines, both red and white. This is basically due to the fact that home made wines are:
a) meant for consumption within a reasonable short period of 1-2 years, and
b) do not have to be stabilized to survive a grueling chain of distribution from vineyard to ship to train, to truck, to warehouse, to wine shop, etc.. White wines have lower sulfite levels than reds, as a rule, again because they are meant to be consumed more quickly.
Second, if an individual has any discomfort after consuming champagne (other than pregnancy). Then the reaction is more likely to alcohol than sulfites, since the sulfite levels in champagnes are very low (after all, they ‘re meant to ferment in the bottle).
Next, note that sulfites are generally added several times during the production of wines. Sulfites play a major, some would say magical, role in the development of wines. Early additions inhibit growth of bacteria and wild yeasts prior to fermentation. Later additions continue to kill bacteria, and act as aging factors and anti-oxidents. Sulfite also promotes clarification after fermentation is over, inhibits browning of white wines, and improves flavor. It doesn’t take a ton of sulfites to achieve these results, as evidenced by the low levels found in kit wines, but some is definitely better than none. Also, you should know that early additions are eliminated from the wine as sulphur dioxide during fermentation, in the process of achieving many of the results listed above. It’s only the final, pre-bottling addition which remains in the wine as an ager and stabilizer. In fact, a recent wine competition winner reported that his secret was to add an extra teaspoon of metabisulfite to his wine, above and beyond that provided by the kit supplier, at bottling time for a flavor boost.