jamie goode's wine blog: South African star with no added sulphur

Thursday, November 29, 2007

South African star with no added sulphur

I'm very excited by this wine. It's an inexpensive South African Cabernet Sauvignon but it is made without any added sulfur dioxide (the 'f' as opposed to the 'ph' spelling is the one now officially used by scientists worldwide, as per IUPAC guidelines - sorry about this boring aside). As you probably know, sulfur dioxide is the chemical almost universally added to wine to prevent the effects of oxidation and to deter unwanted microbrial growth.

Very few producers attempt to make wines without any added sulfur dioxide at all. There are a slightly larger group who don't use any during the winemaking process but add some at bottling. But, given the utility of sulfur dioxide, what is the motivation for doing without it? First, some people have a desire to make wine with no additions whatsoever, because they are committed to their vision of natural wines. Second, some people think that wines with no sulfur added have an aromatic purity and elegance that is worth taking a huge risk for.

I've had mixed experiences with no-sulfur added wines, but enough good ones that keep me pursuing this topic with interest. Yes, I know it's madness to try to make commercial wines without sulfur additions, but I admire people who try. And in this case, the wine is utterly fantastic - much, much more interesting and arguably better than any South African wine at this price point that I've so far tasted.

Stellar Organics Cabernet Sauvignon No Added Sulphur 2006 Western Cape
Made from organically grown grapes, with no added sulfur dioxide. A fantastic deep red/black colour, this looks like a barrel sample. It has a wonderfully perfumed, seductive nose of pure sweet blackcurrant fruit with an earthy edge and some gravelly minerally notes in the background. The palate is concentrated and quite lush, but underneath the sweet dark fruit lies a complex earthy core with a very subtle spicy green herby note adding an extra dimension. Despite the fact that this is quite a big wine, there's a lovely elegance here, and a delicious textural richness. I reckon you need to drink this gorgeously forward wine in the first flush of its youth: I suspect it will taste a bit tired and go all earthy by this time next year. 90/100 (6.50 Vintage Roots, on offer a 5.95 until 11 January 2008)

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At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

Hard to get this wine here Jamie and of course the winery is quite a long drive from Somerset West.
Will try and get up there next week.

At 3:22 PM, Blogger Barleymow said...

Sulfur? Why has IUPAC gone with this vulgar Americanism?

At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Amfetamine Sulfate is phun said...

You mean, 'why is the late Latin and medieval form of this word being used?'

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Christian said...

Hi Jamie,

also in the Pithos , the Cerasuolo that you have recently tasted , they don't use sulfur dioxide at all.

At 12:59 AM, Anonymous winefarmer said...

I'd be interested in finding out how these non-sulfur wines are shipped long distance. I've had amazing no sulfur wines here in California (Coturri, Frey) but I'd think they might not be so good after a transoceanic voyage without a well-developed refrigeration infrastructure.


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