There’s a belief among wine lovers and professionals that wines which have never had sulfur dioxide added to them will not age.
I’m no longer of that opinion.
The wine that changed my mind more than any others was a back-tasting of Battle of Bosworth Puritan Shiraz, from 2010 to 2016. The 2010 was labelled Preservative Free but since 2011 the wines are named Puritan, with the words ‘no added preservative’ in smaller print.
Battle of Bosworth is an organically farmed vineyard in McLaren Vale. Joch Bosworth and Louise Hemsley-Smith produce a range of wines with customary sulfur added, in addition to the annual release of unsulfured shiraz.
The back-tasting was an eye-opener. All the wines had aged quite well and were drinking well, the 2010 perhaps starting to tire a fraction, but the others still bright and lively. My favourite on the day was the 2014, while the ’15 was also very good and the ’16 just needed a little time to settle. This was back in September so it should be fine by now.
McLaren Vale has become arguably Australia’s leading region for organic and biodynamic viticulture. Paxton (tastings) is perhaps the best-known and one of the bigger grape-growers and winemakers. Yangarra (tastings), Gemtree (tastings) and Inkwell (tastings) are others, Yangarra and Inkwell also producing very good unsulfured red wines.
The phrase preservative-free (often PF on the label) is a little misleading. The description should be No Added Preservative, except it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so well. The reason is that yeasts always produce some sulfites during fermentation, so strictly speaking wine is never preservative-free. Unsulfured reds are always more successful than whites because their tannins and colour pigments act as preservatives. Unsulfured whites are usually some shade of brown with ‘brown-apple’ staleness.
The jury is still out on long-term age-ability of unsulfured reds. The oldest Bosworth shiraz is only just turning seven, which is not very old for a shiraz. I’d be keen to taste older examples if there are any out there.