Preservative-Free Wines 101

You have probably read somewhere that wines contain sulphur dioxide. It occurs naturally to a certain degree and it occurs in all types of wines. The sulphite works as the wine’s preservative and enhancer, so many wineries are adding the SO2 on purpose. It is known to stop the ongoing fermentation and to protect the wine from oxidation and bacterial exposure. And while SO2 doesn’t seem like a bad thing, some countries, like Australia, have very strict laws about the amounts of it in foods and drinks.

Preservative-Free Wines


Also, some people cannot stand a large number of sulphites in wine (because they are allergic, have breathing issues or simply are prone to terrible headaches in the morning). If you are one of them, you should always choose preservative-free wines. All types of wines can be free of preservatives; choose preservative-free red wine for your perfectly cooked BBQ, or a light preservative-free rose for a night out with your friends. If you are new to this whole sulphite thing, here are some basic information you should know.

What Are Wine Preservatives & Why Are They Used

If you check the label of any wine, you will notice that it contains sulphur dioxide (or the label may say that the wine has added sulphites). Australia has strict restrictions on the number of sulphites in the wine. However, this is not the case with wines from many countries outside Australia. Preservatives are added in high amounts in many wines and other supermarket products like candies, processed meat, dried fruit, and other packed food.

Winemakers started using sulphites in the early 1900s and they are mainly added to preserve the wine and slow down the decay process. Sulphites are used to get the wine into the bottle and to give the drinker wine in the best condition. Low preservative-free wines need pristine grapes in the best possible condition (this is why winners are carefully handling grapes when they make wines with sulphites). If the grape has fewer faults then fewer sulphites are required. Nowadays, many wineries are offering these types of wines because they are easier for drinking and many people want wines that are more natural.

Preservative-Free Wines


How Preservative-Free Wines Are Different

The winery needs pristine grapes that have no disease or bird damage. Then, the grapes are carefully handled in the winery, are stored in a cool place and away from air as much as possible. Wineries that care for their preservative-free wines usually pick the grapes by hand, destem them and send the wine to tanks for fermentation, where the temperature is controlled. Next comes the soft extraction and ferment phase and pressing the skins off early. Once the fermentation is done and the wine is clarified, filtered and poured into bottles (around 8 weeks after picking).

A preservative-free wine has minimal intervention which makes it easy for drinking. You can feel the fruit flavours and the actual scent of the wine without feeling ‘invaded’ by the sulphites. This is especially important to people with sulphite allergies; if you want to taste and enjoy a good glass of red wine, you should not hesitate to buy a preservative free red wine.

Preservative-Free Wines


Which Wines Have Preservatives?

White and rose wines don’t contain natural anti-oxidants since they aren’t left in contact with their skins during the crushing process. This is why these wines are more prone to oxidation and usually get larger doses of sulphur dioxide. When it comes to red wine, winemakers tend to use far fewer amounts of sulphites. These wines don’t need too much added SO2 since they naturally have anti-oxidants (that are taken from their skins and stems during fermentation). When buying a preservative free red wine, make sure to read the SO2 amounts (and check if there are any added sulphites just in case).

Orange wine is similar to red wine and contains fewer sulphites. Orange wine is made by using skin contact methods that allow them to stay protected and don’t need any more sulphur dioxide (this is why natural wines are becoming so popular). They won’t make you feel any headaches in the morning and even if you feel a slight hangover the next day you will easily be able to function properly.

Do They Cause Headaches?

The idea of having a hangover the next morning keeps people from enjoying another glass of their favourite wine. The main reason for the unbearable headache and that nasty hangover feeling are the sulphites. So, if you want to have a good time and be fresh in the morning, choose a preservative-free wine. People with asthma are more likely to be sensitive to sulphites as well. This shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your glass of wine, all you need to do is choose a sulphite-free drink for the best experience.