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Friday, 11 March 2011

Confessions of a Natural Winemaker

I confess! I did it! I put some SULPHUR in a lot of wine a few months ago. It was either that, or lose the wine.

Bag of Potassium Bisulphite

But it gets worse! It was the first time that we’d ever added a dose sulphites to our wine so we weren’t quite sure how to calculate the quantity to add, and it’s quite complex if you’re not a mathematician or a chemist.

Anyway the upshot of the matter is that we added way too much. We just got back the results of analysis we sent off to a lab, and it turns out that we’ve ended up with 240 mg/l in there!!! I think that’s over the legal limit for even conventional industrial wine, let alone organic or natural wine!!!.

I think we miscalculated by a factor of 10, because what we wanted to do was to add only 20 mg/l, not >200 mg/l.

The product in question was Potassium Meta-Bisulphite.

Some thoughts in theory

I’ve always said that I’ve nothing against the rational, sensible use of sulphur, but I am against its ABUSE, ie adding it at any and all stages of the winemaking process to cover up the bad quality of the grapes or over-manipulation in the winery. In general, I see no need to use sulphites at all, if you:

1) use good quality grapes

2) keep your winery clean

3) don’t over-manipulate the wine

As they say: “There’s always a first time”, and this was the first time in 8 years for us. I hope it will be the last.

Some thoughts in practice

So what are we going to do with this lot of wine now? Well, ‘luckily’ it was a lot that we were planning to use for a ‘coupage’, and we’re still going to do that. We’ll have do some calculations (and get a mathematician or chemist to check them for us) to ensure that the final sulphite level in the blend is low, and we’ll put that level on the back-label when we eventually bottle the wine.

The lot in question was the Graciano, which I posted about back in October: “Stuck Fermentation” and Status of Experiments.

We’re thinking of making a Crianza that is 10% Graciano and 90% Tempranillo. Such a blend should have a sulphite level of 24 mg/l, no? (ie, 240 x 10%) Plus whatever ‘natural’ level of sulphur the Tempranillo has in it. We haven’t added any sulphites to the Tempranillo, but there’s always a little (between 0 and 20 mg/l) present as a result/byproduct of fermentation.

I have lots more thoughts on Sulphites, but I won’t publish them here and now! I’m saving them up and writing a draft text, which I’ll eventually upload to a section in my future webpage (which I’ve been trying to create for about 2 or 3 years now!!!)

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