Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Why are “Sulfites” in Our Wines?

Just like an old can, Sulfites have been kicked around by lots of people for a very long time. It’s been kicked up the hill, down the hill and through the valley. It’s been dented, scratched and bent. Yet, through it all, Sulfites have weathered the abuse and stood with us. There must be more to the Sulfite story than we’ve been told.

Of all the questions that we hear at Bunker Hill Vineyard and Winery, the question that’s most often asked concerns, ”Added Sulfites” in our wines.

So, come on, put on your can kickin’ boots and walk a ways with me through the vineyard. I do my best talking when I’m walking among the grapes. The fact is, this is where our Sulfite story begins!

See those plump black skinned grapes over there on the left? Just look at those luscious golden skinned grapes over there on the right! Remember how delightful those red and white wines tasted?       

Well, if it wasn’t for the “Sulfites” contained in the skins of those grapes, we would not have this memory. Yep, Sulfites are contained Naturally in the skins of All grapes everywhere in the world! We have a legion of grapes and a plethora of fine wine memories, due in large part, to these natural sulfites.

Grapes are packed with lots of great stuff, anti-oxidant, natural sugars and carbohydrates. Besides us, there are lots of other things that like to eat grapes. Lurking on the skins of our grapes are tiny microscopic organisms that would love to take a bite out of our delicious black and golden gems. The barrier that keeps them at bay is, you guessed it, those natural sulfites.  

So, why do we add ‘additional’ sulfites to our wines? Don’t sulfites give me a headache?   

First, let me say that we have been adding extra Sulfites to our wines for ‘hundreds’ of years! Most people think that adding Sulfites is a recent thing…It’s NOT.

The reason that we add additional Sulfites to our wines is, quite simply, to protect our health. Many of those same bacteria and other organisms that would like to eat our grapes would just love to get into our wines and make us sick.

Most other foods we treat with UHT (Ultra High Temp) to kill these bad bugs. UHT just won’t work with wine. Please consider what the effect of UHT would be on our wine.

First, UHT would destroy much of the “taste, flavor & bouquet’ of the wine.

Second, UHT would remove most of the alcohol from our wine. We all know what happens to the alcohol in our wine when we cook with it. The alcohol dissipates.

Third, the ‘color’ of our wine would be forever changed.

So, until something better comes down the pike, we will continue to add some additional Sulfites to our wines.

Please note, if your favorite wine is produced in the U.S.A. the Sulfites added to your wine are regulated by three Federal Agencies…the BATF, USDA and the FDA. According to the rules, wines can contain anywhere from 10 parts per million to approx. 385 parts per million. Please, please, don’t get hung up on these numbers. They are pretty low! Those cheese and crackers that we eat with our wine can contain anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 parts per million!

Finally, the question about sulfites and headaches??

Unless you’re asthmatic, sulfites are probably NOT the villain.  In America, approx. 5% of our population is asthmatic. About 1% of that 5% are sensitive to sulfites. The rest of us are not sensitive, at all! If, however, you are still convinced that your headaches are being caused by your wine, my suggestion would be to switch to an “Unfiltered” wine!  Since Unfiltered wines are NOT filtered in any way, there’s no reason to add “Hints & Notes” to the wine.  

Our Sulfite story has come to an end. It’s time to pick up our can, dust it off and put it back on the shelf.

Until next time………”Salute and Happy Days”