Consumers with a sensitivity to sulphur can experience allergic reactions to beverages or foods that contain sulphur. If this is you, fear not! Stellar Winery has a number of special “no sulphur added wines” that have been in production since 2004; the brand having recognised the need for a clean, all-natural wine.
Stellar Winery is situated at Kys Halte, just outside Vredendal, Western Cape, which borders the Namaqualand – the only semi-arid biosphere hotspot in the world. Innovation is one of Stellar’s strengths and since their wines first appeared on the market in 2003 they have broken new ground in both winemaking and social development. All Stellar Winery’s wines are certified organic, vegan friendly and fair trade according to Fair for Life regulations, giving wine drinkers a guilt-free experience.
Sulphur is normally added to wine to prevent oxidation and to extend the shelflife. To qualify for a no sulphur added certification, the wine has to have fewer than ten parts per million of total sulfates. “The reason for this is because if you make wine with yeast, the yeast could also produce natural sulfates, which can be more than the allowed ten parts per million for no added sulphur wines,” says Klaas Coetzee, head winemaker, viticulturist and general arbiter of quality.
According to Mauritius Naude, winemaker at Stellar Winery, a lot of attention to detail in the vineyard and winery is required. He is of the opinion that healthy grapes equal healthy wine.
“Regular and constant monitoring of the no sulphur added (NSA) wine is needed to keep them from oxidation. It’s important to start out with enough wine so that you are able to give sulphur to the wines that show any signs of oxidation and still have enough left to fill your market,” Mauritius explains and adds that over the years they have discovered various techniques to minimise oxidation in the cellar.
“The trick is to continually monitor your yeast and use specially selected yeast which does not produce a lot of sulfates. This will ensure that there isn’t a lot of natural sulfates in the wine,” Klaas explains.
There is a common misconception held by some wine consumers that wines without added sulphur will be of a lesser quality, but Jacques Skinner, Sales and Export Manager at Stellar Winery, believes that the no sulphur added wines are at least of equal quality, if not a higher quality than their sulphured equivalents.
“Sulphur has a bleaching effect on wine, so the colours and flavours of our NSA wines are enhanced due to the lower sulphur in the wines, and all the other aspects of the wine can be considered as equal to conventional wines,” says Jacques.
Mauritius shares Jacques’s sentiment and says it takes skill and technique to make a good NSA wine. “Usually the NSA wines are the ones that have better colour and mouth feel, because sulphur has a bleaching effect on red wine. NSA wines can be better than wine with sulphur added to it; it is up to you to shop around and try different wines and compare them until you find what you like,” says Mauritius.
According to Skinner there is a misperception that NSA wines do not give you a headache – this is only true to an extent. “Individuals who are sulphur sensitive will have relief from headaches and possibly sinus related ailments drinking NSA wines. On the other hand there is something called alcohol in wine… drink enough of it and you’ll get a headache that has nothing to do with sulphur dioxide, if you catch my drift!”
According to Jacques more and more wine patrons are, within the Stellar fold, opting for the organic NSA wines. Stellar Winery’s biggest market is currently in the USA due to the increasing demand for “healthier” wine options; however many other markets in Europe and Asia have also latched on.
“These wines started out as a niche product with special reference to the USA, as third world countries exporting organic wine to the States need to also have the wine approved as NSA to constitute organically produced wine,” Jacques explains.
The added benefit of having a wine produced without the addition of sulphur should encourage health-conscious individuals to embrace these wines.
“This is a trend we anticipate will continue to grow into the future as more and more wine enthusiasts opt for the ‘healthier choice’,” says Jacques.
Stellar’s wines are available in South Africa, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, The United States of America, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Japan, Malta, East Africa, Namibia, Madagascar and Canada. Stellar also supplies a special No Sulphur Added wine range to Woolworths South Africa and their wines are available on Takealot.