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Sainsburys first sulphite-free wine

Sainsburys has taken the first UK listing of a commercial wine made without the addition of sulphites.

The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Stellar Winery in South Africa will be part of Sainsbury’s So Organic range. Priced at £4.99, it will be available from mid-March.

Sulphites, in the form of sulphur dioxide (SO2), are almost universally added to wines to protect against unwanted microbial growth and oxidation.

While there exists a small niche for ‘natural wines’ made without using SO2, these wines are not widely distributed, and they frequently have strong ‘farmyard’ or ‘funky’ odours.

This will be the first widely distributed, inexpensive SO2-free wine.

SO2 is thought to be harmless at the levels typically found in wine, but some asthmatics react badly to it. A glass of wine contains around 10 mg of SO2, of which a small portion will have been produced by yeasts during fermentation.

Stellar’s winemaker Dudley Wilson told decanter.com that modern production techniques make the use of SO2 less critical than in the past. Proper control of oxygen during winemaking, careful bottling, and sterile filtration makes it possible to produce a stable, fault-free wine without SO2.

‘Standards of hygiene in cellars are much improved. With the selection of healthy good quality fruit at optimum ripeness in the vineyard, there is little need to use large amounts of SO2 at the start of the wine making process.’

He added that big reds rich in phenolic compounds are better suited to this approach. ‘Not all wines are SO2 free candidates.’

The Sainsburys Cabernet carries a neck tag, labelled ‘no added sulphites’, explaining what this means and warning customers ‘once opened, do not store this wine’.

In Australia, Hardys produce a range of three NPA (‘no preservative added’) Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay made from Riverland fruit without sulphur dioxide additions. These retail at AUS$15, but are not exported.

Written by Jamie Goode

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