Get the Skinny on Sulfates and Organic Wines

As a former Science teacher, the topic of sulfates usually comes up in wine conversations. Most people do know what a sulfate is. Sulfates or Sulfur Dioxide, a compound formed from Sulfur and Oxygen, occurs naturally in the fermentation process in very small amounts, 10 – 20 ppm. It is a very small amount

What is ppm?

The following are two common definitions of ppm.

ppm is parts per million and it also can be expressed as milligrams per liter (mg/L). This measurement is the mass of a chemical or contaminate per unit volume of water. Seeing ppm or mg/L on a lab report means the same thing.

Another definition – Just as per cent means out of a hundred, so parts per million or ppm means out of a million. Usually describes the concentration of something in water or soil. One ppm is equivalent to 1 milligram of something per liter of water (mg/l) or 1 milligram of something per kilogram soil (mg/kg).

What do sulfates do to the wine?

1. Act like a vitamin or an aspirin for the wine – an antibacterial to help prevent the wine from turning to vinegar.
2. Prevents sweet wine from re-fermenting in the bottle
3. Prevents Oxygen from tainting the wine as an antioxidant
4. Sulfates can aggravate certain medical conditions, like asthma, So the US requires it to be listed on the bottle, amounts greater than 10 ppm.
5. Desert wines contain the most

Organic Wine

Organic wines contain less than 10 ppm of sulfates are not listed on the label. It is thought that sulfates will cause headaches. Recent research has found that food and drinks that have been aged, such as dry aged meats and red wines, can cause our body to release histamines and create these allergy-type symptoms. To prevent a histamine headache, simply take a histamine blocker or antihistamine prior to having a glass of red wine.

Organic wines are not popular and this is surprising, as organic foods are growing in popularity today. Today wines are being produced from organically grown grapes, but again sulfates are naturally occurring in the vineyard and will be in the wine. In the US any wine made form organically grown grapes without added sulfates is considered “Organic”. In the US you can’t add sulfates to the wine and be considered organic.

Organic wines generally have a poor shelf life and poorer taste, you can not cellar them, as they turn to vinegar quickly. So don’t store organic wine for future use. If you want to drink green, look for organically grown grapes and a sulfate content no grater that 100 ppm.

Bio-dynamics

The Bio-dynamic concept is based on the fact that everything in the universe is interconnected and gives off a reasonable “vibe”. Bio-dynamic viticulture is the practice of balancing the resonance between vine, man, Earth, and stars. It is a Holistic view of agriculture. This holistic homeopathic concept predates the organic movement, and was founded in the 1920’s by Austrian Randolph Steiner. The process of Bio-dynamics occurs in the vineyard and not part of the winemaking process.