Sul­phur with your wine? No, thanks

The Guardian - Feast - - News - Fiona Beck­ett

I’m some­times sur­prised that there isn’t more in­ter­est in no- and low-sul­phur wines. Af­ter all, there is a sig­nif­i­cant mi­nor­ity who are quite badly af­fected by sul­phites, yet there’s not nearly as much dis­cus­sion about that as there is about, say, gluten in­tol­er­ance.

Sul­phites fea­ture in most wines; whites more than reds, and sweet wines sig­nif­i­cantly more than both. They pre­vent ox­i­da­tion (that is, they stop the juice turn­ing brown), they keep wines sta­ble (im­por­tant when they have to travel) and they pre­serve their bright, fresh fruit flavours. The down­side is that higher lev­els can, in some peo­ple, pro­voke headaches and breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, though headache can of course also be trig­gered by the amount you drink.

Even if a wine has no added sul­phur (of­ten re­ferred to on the la­bel as NAS), it may well con­tain some nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring or “free sul­phur” as a re­sult of the fer­men­ta­tion process. It’s re­ally the to­tal level you need to be con­cerned about, which, un­der EU reg­u­la­tions, can be up to 400mg per litre in the case of sweet wines (200mg per litre is the max­i­mum for whites and 150mg for reds). Nat­u­ral wine bars will gen­er­ally stock wines that are a good deal lower than that – in the case of Plateau in Brighton, for ex­am­ple, they aim for 30mg per litre.

The bad news for those who are look­ing for NAS wines is that they are not that widely avail­able, they’re gen­er­ally quite ex­pen­sive and, if you’re used to the bright fruit flavours of con­ven­tion­ally made wines, you may even not like them (that said, like low-sul­phur wines, they gen­er­ally ben­e­fit from de­cant­ing).

There is, how­ever, a de­vice called Üllo that is de­signed to re­move sul­phites from stan­dard wines (cur­rently £69.99, plus ex­tra for the fil­ters). The mak­ers aren’t spe­cific about how, ex­actly, that works, but the good news is that, from a taste point of view, it has no im­pact and, if any­thing, clar­i­fies and bright­ens wines poured through it. It made a slightly rough-and-ready Ro­ma­nian syrah, for in­stance, taste quite a bit bet­ter, but that may have sim­ply been the ef­fect of aer­at­ing it. In the small print at the bot­tom of the home page, how­ever, it says, “Üllo is not in­tended to di­ag­nose, cure, treat, or pre­vent re­ac­tions to sul­phites”, which makes you won­der what the point of the de­vice is. The web­site also ad­vises those who suf­fer from an al­lergy or sen­si­tiv­ity to sul­phites to con­sult a doc­tor be­fore us­ing the Üllo. All I’m say­ing is that it ex­ists, so it’s an op­tion. Up to you.

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