Winemakers Are Slashing Sulfites—Without Sacrificing Quality

December 16th, 2021–Silver Thread is featured in an article by Read full article here.

Efforts for lowering sulfite levels go beyond consumer demand. It’s also raised the bar on thoughtful farming and winemaking practices.

—Kathleen Willcox

In their most basic form, when it comes to wine, sulfites comprise a range of sulfur compounds. They are organic, natural, formed during the process of fermentation. They are also added by most vintners during the winemaking process to further safeguard and stabilize their wines.

“A certain amount of sulfites are needed to ensure a wine’s stability,” says Frédéric Lavau, winemaker at Maison Lavau, which has 150 acres of vineyards across France’s Rhone Valley. “We want to make sure we can safely ship our wines to Asia and the U.S., without impacting flavor or quality.”

The interest in low-sulfite wines—among consumers and producers—has been increasing in recent years. Many producers now say sulfites are only necessary in micro amounts.

All wines naturally have some level of sulfites, even before winemakers add more during the production process. Sulfites, as Lavau explains, perform essential duties, preserving wine, preventing rot, acting as a barrier against oxidation and eliminating active yeast, but the level at which they were traditionally deployed simply isn’t necessary, thanks to advancements in science.

‘The Payoff is Worth it’

“High levels are unnecessary,” says Athena Pappas, co-owner and co-winemaker at Boedecker Cellars in Portland, Oregon. “We add 20 ppm or less at crush, depending upon the state of the grapes, just to control…

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