It seems very fashionable to have an allergy right now. Some of my friends claim to come out in a rash if they go anywhere near shell-fish, others are allergic to pollen, wheat products, bee stings, milk products, perfume, you name it.
I know several people who claim that the sulphur in wine is what gives them a hangover.
I always nod sympathetically, secretly wondering if it’s not really the alcohol in the wine that does the damage. But sulphur is a better excuse for a babbelas.
I was interested to hear Guy Webber’s remarks on the subject, when he launched Stellenzicht‘s two new Cellarmaster’s Release wines, that have had no sulphites added.
Stellenzicht’s no-added-suphites wines are an ongoing experiment. Webber released a 2009 Chardonnay and a 2008 Petit Verdot, both of which are deliciously different.
But when he submitted his first attempt at unsulphured wines to the Wine and Spirit Board, they rejected it – on the grounds that it contained more than the permitted minimum sulphite level of 10 parts per million for wines of that category.
But he had not added any at all. It was there from the natural winemaking process. Sulphur is a natural product of winemaking, so don’t let anybody tell you you’re drinking a “sulphur-free” wine. You may well be drinking a “no-added sulphur” wine, which is not the same thing at all.
Back to the newly released wines; These unusual wines were fermented in whole bunches. The Petiti Verdot was packed into closed 300 litre wooden barrels and rolled once a day to get the skins into good contact with the juice.
The Chardonnay was fermented in stainless steel.
They remained on the skins for an astonishing 12 months.
Because the sulphur that is normally added acts as a preservative and anti-bacterial, extra care has to be taken at every stage of the wine-making process. Bottles must be perfectly sterile, corks must be as free from possible contamination as possible.
But as Webber points out, the real test of any wine, no matter how it was made, is its flavour. His first objective when making these wines was to produce something that tasted good. Health benefits were a secondary consideration.
And he has certainly achieved this.
The long contact with the lees has given both wines a warm, yeasty undertone. The Chardonnay offers a crisp, lemon-lime character that unfolds in the glass to reveal clean, green-apple flavours and a dry, lingering finish.
The Petit Verdot is packed with ripe, nutty plum flavours with some savoury notes that linger on and on. As there are so few Petit Verdot wines available, it’s hard to tell whether these flavours are from the grape or the winemaking process.
Whatever they may be, this is a fine and different wine to try.
I hope the label accentuates the Petit Verdot rather than the no-sulphites- added aspect.
These wines are for enjoyment, more than for health. They are fun.
Only about 1000 bottles of each were made and they retail for about R90 for the Chardonnay and R115 for the Petit Verdot.
Give them a try when you’re looking for something different.
You might like to buy a couple of bottles for your allergy-claiming friends.
They’ll have no excuse for that Christmas hangover.