Researchers have found sulphur dioxide might benefit grapes.
[Picture: Ben Mills] Sulphur Dioxide: good for grapes?
A study by the University of Western Australia has found that sulphur dioxide could actually have a positive effect on a grape berry’s composition.
The chemical is used widely in winemaking worldwide for a variety of purposes, and is very much bête-noire of the burgeoning natural wine movement, which considers it unnecessary.
Assistant professor Michael Considine at the university told Decanter.com, ‘The exciting thing is that sulphur dioxide increases the antioxidant levels and antifungal levels in the berry to improve its own defense responses. It primes the plant to help itself.’
Considine admitted there was ‘irrefutable evidence that sulphur dioxide has ill-health effects on humans’ including skin and respiratory problems.
But, he said, once more was understood about vines and sulphur dioxide, finding an alternative would be possible.
‘If we can understand a little better how the plant is responding to sulphur dioxide than we can tailor alternatives, which would not have ill-health connotations.’
Considine suggested ozone could be a possible alternative, as well as lysozyme, which some wineries already use instead of sulphur dioxide to inhibit the malolactic fermentation.
The research was conducted on table grapes but could far-reaching consequences for wine producers in their search to further reduce sulphur levels.
Written by Rebecca Gibb