What are sulphites and how can I tell which wines are free of them? Are organic wines sulphite free?

The first thing that you need to know about sulphites is that they are a natural by-product of the fermentation process, the process is how alcohol (all alcohol) is made. Basically, yeast eats sugar and excretes alcohol and carbon dioxide (as well as heat energy and sulphites). For this reason it is ALMOST impossible to have a wine with no sulphites. I say "almost" because you do get the odd freak-of-nature product in which no sulphites are found. So, all this said, it is safe to say that almost no wine is actually "sulphite free".

You are definitely on the right track in choosing organic wines if you want a “low-sulphite” option. One of the rules for organic wines is that they must contain less than 100 ppm (parts per million) of sulphites to be considered organic – with most “organic wines” containing A LOT less than this! Organic wines attain such low sulphite levels because the use of sulphur was reduced or eliminated in the vineyard and winery. However, a negative effect of this low sulphur usage is that the wines have a shortened shelf-life, with some barely being alive after 18-24 months.

Some of the organic wines that we see on NLC shelves these days include:

  • sku 8310
    Las Moras BLACK LABEL Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc
    In fact all the Las Moras products are organic, including the “Reserve” & “Black Label” ranges, as well as their “top-shelf” offering – Mora Negra (sku 7129)
  • sku 4712 and sku 4713 
    Carmen NATIVA line from Chili – A Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, respectively
  • sku 8304 and sku 8305
    Natura line, also from Chili – Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, respectively