Is an organic wine a sulphite-free wine?
Is an organic wine necessarily a sulphite-free wine ? The answer is clear : no, not necessarily! An organic wine can be vinified with sulphites; just as an organic wine can be vinified without added sulphites.
Organic wines: a label
In fact, organic wine and wine without added sulphites are two distinct types of process. Organic wines are wines that carry a label. In France, the Organic Agriculture label is owned by the Ministry of Agriculture. The cultivation of the grapes from which these wines are made meets specific specifications, including limiting the use of inputs on the vine. The AB label on a wine therefore mainly concerns the way the grapes are grown (viticultural practices).
Wines without added sulfites: a regulation
Sulphites are sulphur derivatives that play a major role in the elaboration and conservation of wine. They are found in wine by a natural effect: yeasts produce sulphites during the alcoholic fermentation process. But also by manual addition by the winemaker at various stages of the winemaking process to play a role as a preservative and antioxidant. For more details on why sulphites are present in wine, I refer you to this article in our "Let's talk about wine" section. In France, the name "wine without added sulphites" meets European regulations (1). No label, no brand today defines wines without added sulphites. Wines without added sulphites are made according to a specific winemaking and ageing process. The production of a sulphite-free wine requires know-how and oenological mastery.
Organic wine and sulphite-free wine: two complementary approaches
To sum up, a winegrower can make organic wines (by adding sulphites during the winemaking process). He can also make wines without added sulphites without using the AB label. He can also combine the two approaches. We, Les Vignerons de Buzet, have been making wines without added sulfites (our reference SANS for example) since 2012. We have also chosen to apply our know-how in the field of sulphite-free wines to all our organic wines. All the organic wines of our cooperative Les Vignerons de Buzet are therefore also wines without added sulphites. To propose organic wines (limitation of inputs to the vineyard) which are also wines without added sulphites (limitation of an additive in the wine) seemed complementary to us. These two approaches go in the direction of a wine where the hand of Man accompanies rather than intervenes in the cultivation of the grape and then in the process of transformation of the grape into wine.
1) The maximum authorized sulphur contents are 150 mg/L for red wines (100 mg/L for organic red wines), 200 mg/L for dry white and rosé wines (150 mg/L for organic white and rosé wines), up to 400 mg/L for sweet white wines, depending on the appellation (30 mg/L less than the official regulation for organic sweet wines). The legal mention "Contains sulphites" must be displayed on the label if the wine contains more than 10 mg/L of SO2.