Vintage Roots specialise in bringing organic and biodynamic wines to your table. We’re looking at four of their chosen wines that are also classed as ‘No Sulphur Added’. Organic sulphur free wine has a much lower chance of causing negative reactions, so they're the ideal option for those with allergies or intolerance to sulphur and sulphites.
So what is sulphur dioxide and why do we want/not want it in our wines?
Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is used as an antiseptic (to kill off unwanted moulds, bacteria and yeasts), and, as an antioxidant (used to inhibit oxygen spoiling the wine) it can help us enjoy more clean tasting and brighter wines. It also occurs naturally in wines up to and sometimes above 10 parts per million, as it is a by-product of the fermentation process.
However, sulphur dioxide can cause adverse and sometimes severe reactions such as headaches, wheeziness, flushing, flu-like symptoms, rashes, a sense of ‘hangover’ the next morning, even if only a moderate amount of wine has been consumed, and, in some rare cases, the onset of asthma attacks.
Most wine bottles by law now carry the allergen advice ‘contains sulphites’ if above 10ppm (part per million). No-added sulphur wines are made with no sulphur dioxide at all, so the risk of allergic reaction is reduced. Note: There are very low levels produced naturally during fermentation, so there is no true "sulphur-free" wine. The name "no sulphur" refers to no sulphur "added" during the wine production. To help customers with a really ‘low sulphur’ choice, Vintage Roots introduced a 'No Sulphur Added’ (NSA) category in their Wine List.
It requires skill, dedication and a keen sense of cleanliness in the cellar and vineyard to produce these wines.
Do I need to know how to ‘handle’ these NSA wines?
As a general rule they can be enjoyed as per ‘normal’ wines. – you can simply ‘pop the cork’ and drink.
They can be aged for at least 5 years for reds, 2 for whites.
They can be decanted – some red NSA wine producers recommend pouring into a jug and then back into the original bottle to oxygenate a little (NB the oxygenation process may be faster in these wines).
Make sure the reds are not too warm: depending on individual taste, you could chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before drinking.
The petillance (gas or fizz), which is not a fault in the wine, will disappear, especially if decanted.
Bonus! These wines can often have a bigger ‘fruit impact’ when smelled or drunk as they are a step closer to pure juice, and the sulphur as an additive can dampen down the fruit aroma and taste a little.
Limited Release No Added Sulphur Organic White:
What VR say: organic, fairtrade, vegan friendly and no added sulphur – 100% Colombard grape with lovely wild flower and honey nose and tangy freshness to finish.
What we say: We really liked this wine – with its striking floral bouquet, and astringent notes (sharp & tangy), it is extremely likeable, easily quaffable and very light – a shame it is limited release – quick, get some while you can! One to drink with white fish.
£8.75 per bottle, Product Code: CRZ12
Cuvee Secrete No Added Sulphur:
What VR say: This 60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc has intense Merlot based black fruit flavours with notes of plum and herbal garrigue spice from the Cabernet Franc. [Ed. ‘garrigue’ refers to bushy, fragrant plants such as juniper, rosemary, lavender, thyme that grow by the Mediterranean – thanks to Wine Spectator]
What we say: Fruity aroma, lovely, slightly medicinal or possibly metallic smell/edge, has a delicious taste with a kick, and happily drinkable! Tasted again after several hours without a cork, we found the wine improved and the flavours deepened.
£8.99 per bottle, Product Code: EFB70
Waverley Hills No Added Sulphites Cabernet Sauvignon:
What VR says: The absence of sulphur raises the fruity, red berry and flower aromas, keeps the colour intensity and enriches and balances the palate. Best drunk young and fresh.
What we say: Lovely deep plum, blackcurrant and treacle/muscovado flavours, strong and direct tasting. A wine to sip, not quaff, it tastes as if it’s high in polyphenols, bit of tannin but pleasantly astringent, tastes quite ‘wet’.
£9.75 per bottle, Product Code: ERZ19
IGP Val de Loire Alias Pinot Noir:
What VR say: The absence of sulphur allows even greater fruit intensity. Straight & pure as a Pinot Noir can be – kirsch at heart with walnut, and subtle on the nose. First smoky, then fruity, drawing you in as it blossoms. Red fruit abundance and ripe soft tannins explode on the palate – can have a natural delicate petillance [slight fizziness] which dissipates with aeration.
What we say: On first opening the wine had a slightly off-putting aroma/gas which swiftly disappeared (the petillance?) and on drinking we felt this was a little watery – we concluded that this wine is yet to blossom, and has more to give with age.
£10.50 per bottle, Product Code: EFG06