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Pepper to replace sulphites in organic wine?

When winemakers produce wine, they mostly use sulfites . They are diffused on the vine leaves to prevent diseases; in the barrel , the tank or the lightning to disinfect before raising the new cuvées; and to preserve wine once bottled. Sulfur or sulfites are not unhealthy as long as they are used sparingly. In organic farming, they are regulated by strict specifications and therefore used in small quantities. However, some winemakers have found a new, harmless alternative for their sulfite- free wines : pepper .

What are sulphur, sulphites?

The role of sulphites in wine

Sulfites have been found in wines for over 50 years. They stabilize the wine and prevent disease. In recent years, more and more winegrowers have embarked on a conversion to organic farming. Their goal ? Protect their health, that of consumers and the planet. They are therefore all the more careful with their use of sulfur that they reduce to the maximum authorized according to the specifications of organic farming, or even for some, produce wines without sulfur .



Sulphur, S02, sulphites: what's the difference?  

Sulphites , SO2 and sulfur are the names used to talk about the material that is added to the vines, in the vats and in the bottle. Sulfur is the raw material, S02 is its chemical name, and sulphites are a mixture of sulfur and oxygen found in wine.



Sulphites, naturally present in grapes

Naturally, a small amount of sulfur is present on the skin of grapes . It protects against the attacks of external diseases.


In organic farming , the authorized doses of sulfur are 100mg/l for red wines , 150mg/l for white wines and rosés, 205mg/l for sparkling wines and sparkling wines, 170mg/l for liqueur wines and 270mg/l for sweet wines and 370mg/l for sweet wines.


In biodynamics , the doses are 70mg/l for red wines , 90mg/l for white wines and rosé wines , 60mg/l for sparkling and sparkling wines, 80mg/l for liqueur wines and 200mg/l for sweet wines.


For natural wines , the doses of sulfur are 30mg/l for red wines, 40mg/l for white wines and rosés, 40mg/l for sparkling wines and sparkling wines, 40mg/l for liqueur wines and 40mg/l for sweet wines and 40mg/l for sweet wines.


Conventional wines have around 150mg/l for reds (i.e. more than 4 times the dose used for natural wines), 200mg/l for whites and rosés, 235mg/l for sparkling and sparkling wines, 200mg/l for liqueurs, 300mg/l for sweets and 400mg/l for sweets.


This means that in organic farming , on a hectolitre of red wine (100 litres), the winegrower puts 10 grams of sulfur to protect his red wine from external aggressions; for natural wines, 3 grams ; and for conventional wines, 15 grams .


In some conventionally grown vineyards , winegrowers have no limit on the use of sulfur and use it in large quantities each time they are spread.

Depending on the color of the wine, the dose will not be the same. Indeed, the tannins of red wines naturally allow the wine to be better preserved. Cabernet Sauvignon , which is a red grape variety widely used in the vineyards of Bordeaux, produces very tannic wines. If we take the example of this Bordeaux grape variety, not adding sulfur makes it possible to produce a better quality wine. By reducing or eliminating the amount of sulfur, we produce even healthier wines, which will not be affected by the taste of SO2. By taking care of the grapes and the chai, the juice is healthy and does not need to suffer from an overdose of sulphur.



Pepper instead of sulphites in wine

The properties of pepper

Pepper would have the same action on the conservation of organic wines as sulphur. This method comes straight from the Middle Ages and has been brought up to date by a few French winegrowers. The wine is therefore without added sulfur and contains approximately 0.002% organic pepper. Indeed, pepper seeds are alkaloids that have antimicrobial effects and act as antioxidants in wine. When entonnage (putting the wine in a barrel), the winemaker replaces the dose of sulphites with pepper without disturbing the balance of the wine. The quantity of pepper is limited so as not to smell when tasted, one spoon, or the equivalent of 2 grams for 1 hectolitre of wine . The wine is then aged in barrels for a year. This method is inspired by salting, which allows the meat to be preserved for months with salt and pepper.



An alternative to sulphites: pepper 

Adding pepper to organic wine is an alternative to using sulfur because it protects the wines. This innovation could be a game-changer, especially for conventional wineries that use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Between the different methods of wine production: organic wines, biodynamic wines, natural wines or healthy wines , the winegrowers had to show inventiveness to preserve the wine. A vine in good health and pampered by the winegrowers who take care of it knows how to reciprocate by producing good grapes.

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