Mr Grumpy: when is an additive not an additive?

When a wine claims to have been made without any additions I expect it to be, well… additive-free. An increasing (but small) number of producers boast that their wine is “additive free” but declare “contains sulphites” on the label, as they are required to do by law if sulphites have been added to their wine.

An increasing (but small) number of producers boast that their wine is “additive free” but declare “contains sulphites” on the label.

A recent example is a Hawke’s Bay chardonnay with “No additions” and “Contains sulphites” on its back label.

“No additions other than a small amount of SO2 pre-fermentation and then for bottling stability”, wrote the winemaker.

Am I alone in thinking that a small amount of SO2 qualifies as an additive?

4 thoughts on “Mr Grumpy: when is an additive not an additive?”

  1. Zac says:

    Bob,
    I agree with you. Lots of labels I have seen now say ‘minimal sulphur,’ which makes me wonder who decides what minimal means. I also ask the following out of curiosity and ignorance. I believe that sulphur is often used to sterilise bottles before bottling. Would this be enough to warrant ‘contains sulphites’ on the label of an otherwise sulphur free wine?

    1. Bob Campbell says:

      An interesting point. I hope it attracts a response.

  2. Damien says:

    You might not be alone Bob, but it’s still shaky ground. The ‘contains sulphites’ would appear even if none had been added, since they’d appear as part of the fermentation process. Isn’t a little bit like saying ‘we added a cork/screwcap’ or ‘a bottle and label’?

    1. Bob Campbell MW
      Bob Campbell MW says:

      That’s not exactly true, the law states “A wine label must include a sulphite declaration if it contains more
      than 10 mg/kg of sulphur dioxide.” That level of concentration exceeds the amount of SO2 generated through fermentation.

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