Often debated, these natural preservatives and antioxidants raise questions: do all wines contain them? This article explores the presence of sulphites in different types of wine and demystifies certain preconceived ideas about them.

Sulphites in wine: a universal but variable presence

The role of sulphites in oenology is well established: they are essential preservatives and antioxidants. However, their use has evolved over time, not least because of their classification as allergens. So, do all wines contain sulphites? The answer is nuanced, because although they are naturally present, their quantity varies.

Natural sulphites VS added sulphites

All wines, even wines with no added sulphites, contain natural sulphites, produced during fermentation. The difference lies in the additional addition of sulphites by the winemaker, a common practice to stabilise and preserve the wine.

Red wines: fewer sulphites needed

Red wines generally require fewer added sulphites than white or rosé wines. The reason for this? Their tannin content, which provides natural protection against oxidation. This characteristic reduces the need to add sulphites to preserve red wine.

Organic wine and the use of sulphites

Organic winemaking practices impose restrictions on the addition of sulphites. For example, sulphite limits in organic red wines are lower than those in conventional red wines. However, this does not mean that all organic wines contain less sulphites than conventional wines.

Variety of sulphites in different types of wine

The amount of sulphites added varies according to the type of wine. Dry white wines contain a moderate dose of sulphites, while semi-dry and sweet wines contain more, due to their higher sugar content and lower acidity.

Wines with the lowest sulphite content

Some wines, such as fortified wines (Port, Banyuls, Madeira), require less sulphites because of their high alcohol content, which prevents secondary fermentation in the bottle. These wines, which are often subject to the desired oxidation, require a minimal amount of sulphites for aseptisation.

Sulphites and labelling: regulations to be followed

The European Union requires wines containing more than 10 mg/L of SO2 to be labelled “contains sulphites”. These regulations are designed to inform consumers, but do not require the exact quantity of SO2 in the wine to be stated.