Stellenzicht introduce two “no added sulphite” wines
Are you one of those people who avoid wine due to the high levels of sulphite in it? Thanks to Guy Webber, the winemaker at Stellenzicht winery, you can now also enjoy a glass of wine that contains no added sulphites. Unfortunately you will always find sulphites in wine, but the 2008 Petit Verdot and 2009 Chardonnay from Stellenzicht sulphite count is very low. To be classified as a low-sulphite wine, the sulphite count must not exceed 10 parts per million. You can read more about sulphites in wine here.
According to Guy the two new wines would help to grow a very small category of wines with no added sulphites that is available to local consumers. It is a challenging process to produce a wine with very low sulphite levels, as sulphites are also generated during fermentation. It’s important to try and reduce the contact between sulphurs and grapes and this starts in the vineyard by avoiding sulphur-based fungicides and insecticides. You have to start with healthy grapes of excellent quality and it must be delivered to the cellar without delay. It is also important to select yeast cultures for fermentation that generate little sulphur. To achieve microbial stability, the wine needs to undergo malolactic fermentation and contact with oxygen must be avoided as far as possible. During bottling the staff had to wear sterilised gloves and dropped pellets of dry ice into each bottle to fill it with carbon dioxide and expel the oxygen. They also tried not to move the wine around a lot and the Chardonnay virtually went straight from the tank into the bottle.
So what does it taste like? The Chardonnay tastes different, in the same way a wooded Chardonnay tastes different from an unwooded one. Ripe pineapple, pawpaw and gooseberry comes through on the nose and it taste different on the palate compared to other white wines. The buttery complexity in the beginning are balanced out with great freshness at the end.
Guy gave the Petit Verdot maximum exposure to tannins and kept it on the skins for almost a year. After that the wine remained in the barrel for another year before they bottled it early in 2010. You will find concentrated fruit flavours on the nose and ripe tannins and a crisp acidity on the palate.
During our delicious lunch at the Test Kitchen in Woodstock, Guy mentioned that there is inherently nothing wrong with sulphur. He stated that it’s a natural, environmentally-friendly substance that has been used extensively in the wine industry as a preservative for donkey years. Sulphur turns into sulphites which preserve the wine. It is an antiseptic as well as an anti-oxidant. In addition to sulphites there are a number of inherent preservatives in wine, such as tannins, the acids and the alcohol itself. If it is sealed in hermetically, there is no reason why a low-sulphite wine should not last as long as sulphite-treated ones.
The wines were not cold-stabilised and therefore it’s possible that you will find small tartrate crystals in the white wine bottles and fine sediment in the red wine might occur over time.
Stellenzicht only produced 1 700 bottles Petit Verdot and 2 000 bottles Chardonnay. Some of this will be offered selectively to the local market while some will be going overseas. The Petit Verdot is expected to sell for about R115 per bottle and the Chardonnay for about R89.