Just about every bottle of wine you’ve ever purchased or drunk in the U.S. has had two words on the back label: “contains sulfites.” The warning sounds ominous. But sulfites are naturally occurring compounds that plants produce to protect themselves from microbial infection. In winemaking, sulfur dioxide (or SO2) is released during fermentation.
Winemakers have been adding sulfur to wine for hundreds (and possibly thousands) of years to help prevent it from spoiling. So, why do sulfites sound so scary? Well, they aren’t. You can read more about that here. And here are five bottles worth checking out:
1. Frey Vineyards Natural Red NV, California ($9)
A pioneer of organic and biodynamic wines, Frey also prides itself on adding no sulfites to its wines. Their basic red blend is comprised of Carignan, Zinfandel, and Syrah – fruity and easy drinking.
2. Cascina Degli Ulivi Filagnotti 2009, Piedmont ($22)
This funky, fruity white made from Piedmont’s Cortese grape is rich and silky with a nice minerality to it. The winemaker runs a strictly organic and biodynamic farm, which you can stay at if you happen to be in the region.
3. Domaine Valentin Zusslin Crémant Brut Zéro, Alsace ($25)
Only made without sulfur when the “grapes are at 100%,” according to the winemaker, this crisp sparkling wine is full of ripe fruit yet lean and mineral. The “zero” refers to “dosage,” or added sugar, which you often find in bubbly. This one has none.
4. Donkey & Goat The Prospector Mourvèdre 2010 ($30), California
The wines at Donkey & Goat are not made strictly without sulfur, but sulfur is dispensed minimally and with caution and sometimes not at all. This one is plumy and earthy with great acidity.
5. Château Le Puy Côtes de Francs 2006, Bordeaux ($42)
This winemaker earned a cult following when his wines were featured in a famous Japanese wine-themed comic book, but he resisted allowing the prices to skyrocket. This red blend is a pretty wine, with red fruit and floral essences, and a velvety texture.
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