I have been reading up on sulphites in wine and happened to stumble across this bottle of supposedly SO2 free wine at Apolónia (€15.95). What grabbed my attention was the use of the word “free”, as it is actually impossible to make wine that has no sulphur in it. What we do have here is a totally natural wine, with no added sulphites, relying only on the sulphur that occurs naturally as a bi-product of fermentation.
So, I do find the use of the term “SO2 Free” to be a little misleading. So, are sulphites in wine actually harmful? The answer in general is no, especially at the low levels allowed these days. In fact, even organically certified wines are allowed to have a small amount of sulphites added. Without any sulphur, wines would become very rapidly oxidised and whites would turn murky and dark, so some sulphur is absolutely essential in the production of wine.
But whilst I am not a fan of such marketing ploys, I am all for wine being made as naturally as possible, with or without organic, biodynamic or SO2 free labelling.
This wine is produced by CARM (Casa Agrícola Roboredo Madeira), a high-quality producer of generally good-value-for-money wine and also excellent olive oils in the upper reaches of the Douro valley. They are a certified organic producer making good wines in all price ranges.
This SO2 Free label won an award in Brazil last year as “best Portuguese white wine”, irrespective of its eco status, but I was not so impressed. For a good few euros less, I could suggest many a Douro white offering a great deal more in terms of flavour and structure, but, that said, it is a very enjoyable wine, dryer than most Douro blend whites with zingy acidity. I would not pay this price for it again, but for those intent on drinking something 100% natural, this is a very decent wine.
By Patrick Stuart