Winemakers have used sulfur since the Middle-Ages. Ever since the invention of the sulfur wick in the seventeenth century, which was essential for the preservation of ageing or traveling wines, sulfur has been closely associated with winemaking. As a matter of fact, there is no way to banish entirely sulfur from wine, it’s a natural byproduct of fermentation.
Given its role in protecting wine from bacteria and oxidation, its modern utilization has made sense, even for organic wines. However, the current trend for “sulfur free” wines legitimately responds to abuses by some winemakers who overindulge in its use, seeing it as a “magic bullet” that exempts them from performing quality work in the vineyard or in the winery. After tasting a wide array of natural wines in recent years, only a minority have the purity, vibrancy and terroir expression that I strive for in my wines. It is no surprise, since making wine without adding any sulfur is a perilous balance, which requires preparation and constant monitoring. With this in mind, we have been implementing methods that protect the juice at each step of the winemaking process allowing us with each improvement to reduce the level of sulfites in our wines.
Watching carefully vines’ and grapes’ health allows us to hand-harvest, which in turn keeps the berries unaltered until they reach the winery. We then store the whole clusters for two days at a low temperature so that they reach 4°C, which keeps them from being damaged by oxygen or heat (think of your refrigerator). Our latest investments were a refrigerated harvest truck and a wine press that avoids any air contact while pressing. Today we feel we’re ready for a first try without any sulfur added. We’ll be bringing in clusters from a northern parcel of Syrah plot. It’s our hope that with its ripe tannins and moderated levels of alcohol, it’s the perfect candidate for a “natural wine”.
Its success will depend on the harvest weather as well as our winery practices, since the smallest problem can be fatal without the shield provided by sulfur. You can be sure that we’ll keep you up-to-date on the results of this experimental cuvée.Keeping our fingers (and toes) crossed!