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Wine

Preserving the truth on sulphates in wine

Recently, one of our members, Penny Bamford, got in touch to ask about preservative 220, which you might have seen listed on the back label of bottle of wine. She wanted to know whether it can cause allergic reactions and whether it’s used in organic and biodynamic wine.

Tasting Panellist Dave Mavor came to the rescue with an explanation.

The main preservative used in wine is sulphur dioxide, which you’ll see on the label as ‘preservative 220’, ‘minimal sulphur dioxide added’ or ‘contains sulphites’. Sulphur dioxide is added in the winemaking process to protect the wine from oxidation and bacterial spoilage.

I can tell you that the sulphur dioxide used in winemaking is less than many other products (e.g., dried fruits, some beer, meat, etc.) that we consume every day. It has been used as a preservative in wine since Roman times. And don’t be fooled into thinking that because preservatives aren’t listed on European wines that they’re not present, it’s just that they don’t have the same strict labelling laws as Australia. The amount of sulphur dioxide winemakers are allowed to add is strictly controlled to a limit of 250 milligrams per litre.

With such low levels it is unlikely to cause any health issues, however, some people feel they are quite sensitive to it. If that is you, here are some tips:

  • There tends to be higher levels of sulphur dioxide added to white wines as they are more susceptible to oxidation, whereas the tannins in red wines act as a natural preservative. If you have symptoms from drinking red wine, it’s more likely to be from the histamines.
  • Age also affects the sulphur dioxide levels in a wine, as it dissipates over time, so if you’re sensitive to sulphur dioxide, go for older wines.
  • There is less sulphur dioxide used in organic and biodynamic wines. Certification allows 50 per cent of what can be used under conventional standards.
  • Preservative-free wines don’t have sulphur dioxide added, however, it can also be a natural product of fermentation and is therefore often present even if it hasn’t been deliberately added. Also, without added preservatives, the wine will be very susceptible to spoilage by oxidation, so it needs to be consumed straightaway – which is not a bad thing.

You might have noticed the recent emergence of products that claim to remove the sulphur dioxide from your wine. Dave explains that these are simply made up of diluted hydrogen peroxide. While this is a chemical sometimes used in the winery when too much sulphur has been accidently added to a wine, it’s extremely controlled by winemakers with a thorough understanding of the chemical process. Remember that if you add too much hydrogen peroxide to a wine it will go off and you will have spoilt all the winemaker’s hard work!

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Wine
Intellectual property
Words by Mark Hughes on 8 Apr 2016
There’s something remarkably special in the hills outside of Canberra. With a truly unique heritage, this ‘thinking person’s wine region’ has taken just four decades to emerge as one of Australia’s premium wine areas. What do you get when two etymologists meet with a biochemist to talk about wine? It almost sounds like the opening line to a joke, but it is in fact a crucial moment in the birth of the Canberra District wine region. In 1970 CSIRO etymologists Dr Edgar Riek and Ken Helm found they had a mutual interest in wine and started up a wine club. Biochemist Dr John Kirk came along to the first meeting. Within a couple of years the three of them had started their own vineyards, and in so doing, began what is recognised today as one of Australia’s most exciting wine regions. In 1971 John planted in Murrumbateman, founding Clonakilla, while Edgar planted on the shore of Lake George for Lake George Winery. Ken set vines not far from John in a tranquil setting now referred to as Helm’s Valley in 1973. Other wine interested folk followed suit, setting up vineyards, including more scientists, helping the Canberra wine region to blossom. These include Lark Hill Winery’s Sue and John Carpenter who have doctorates in statistics and applied mathematics respectively, Dr Roger Harris, who founded Brindabella Hills Winery, and Lerida Estate’s Jim Lumbers, both CSIRO alumni. With so much collective brain power, the Canberra District really is the thinking person’s wine region. It is a unique history and something that truly sets Canberra apart from any other wine region in Australia, perhaps the world. But as Ken, who still mans the cellar door located in a former 19th century schoolhouse at Helm Wines, says, it has been a both a blessing and a hindrance. “Many other wine regions are started by medicos and barristers with high disposal incomes. Canberra was started by academics, who didn’t have much money, so it was really a bootstrap operation,” he says. “It was one of the difficulties because the district had very good research minds, but not a lot of commercial knowledge. It wasn’t until 1980 that the first qualified winemaker came to the district. We were fascinated – having that academic background we learned to question and think and be innovative. If there was a seminar or short course we went to it, slowly developing techniques of how to get the best out of the area.” Initially, the district had to fight against critics who said it was too cold, or suffered from too many frosts, that the wines were green and that it would never be a premium wine region. The scientist put themselves through wine courses, where most probably knew more than their teachers. The winemaking improved and the wines started to confirm the enormous potential of the region. Ken started turning heads with numerous awards for his Riesling, Edgar earned rave reviews for his Pinot Noir, while John won awards for his Clonakilla Shiraz. His son, Tim, who took over as chief winemaker in 1996, made the wine world stand to attention when his Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier won Wine of the Year Award at the New South Wales Wine Awards.Canberra’s Eden Road Winery did likewise when they won the 2009 Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy for best red in the country with their Shiraz. Nowadays, the Canberra District is regarded as one of the best in the country, confirmed by the fact that 75 per cent of the region’s 40 or so wineries have a four star or more rating by esteemed wine critic James Halliday. The lay of the land It is a curious feature of the Canberra wine region that only one winery, Mount Majura, is actually located within the Australian Capital Territory, the others are located north of the city in NSW. Frank van der Loo, winemaker at Mount Majura, champions Spanish varietals Tempranillo and Graciano alongside the region’s flagships of Riesling and Shiraz . He says their vineyard site was actually chosen by Edgar Riek. “Edgar chose the site from a geology map and was attracted to a patch of limestone on an east-facing slope. It is quite a unique little patch of dirt, and a great site for vines,” says Frank. The rest of the Canberra wine district falls into three sub-regions. The first is just 15 minutes out of Canberra along the Barton Highway at Hall. This area is situated at around 550 metres high and is blessed with gorgeous rolling hills that fall away to a twisting Murrumbidgee River. It is here that Roger and Faye Harris set up Brindabella Hills in 1986. “The main concern in this district is frost, so we looked for a spot with good cold air drainage,” Roger tells me over a glass of Riesling. “The vineyard is actually on a ridge that juts out over the Murrumbidgee Valley and there is a 100-metre drop to the valley floor, so that absorbs the cold area for most frost events.” As well as Shiraz, Cabernet and Riesling (ask Roger for some glorious aged Riesling he is hiding), Brindabella Hills is experimenting with the Italian Sangiovese varietal, which is ideal to sip at their picturesque Tuscan-inspired cellar door that has breath-taking views over the Murrumbidgee.
Wine
Shipwrecked Wines - what would you take?
You’re shipwrecked on a desert island with one bottle of wine – what did you bring? Find out about the wines our experts believe they just couldn’t survive without. Picture this – it’s a balmy sunny Sunday and you’re on a boat bobbing around on the ocean with friends enjoying the good life. The skies suddenly darken, the sea begins to churn, but luckily before the waves come crashing down washing you over overboard, you’re able to rescue a bottle of your favourite wine.  Nicole Gow – Wine Selectors Tasting Panellist , Wine Show Judge “I chose Chardonnay with melon and stone fruits in abundance. Survival in nothing but luxury is my goal. I'll be gathering my tropical fruits each morning, hunting some shellfish and chilling my bottle in the cooling rock pools, while I'm getting subtly toasted, just like my yummy oak!” Credaro Five Tales Chardonnay 2016 Brad Russ – Tulloch Wines “Sparkling of course. Drinking Sparkling suggests it’s party time – in this case on a deserted island so it’s very exclusive and bespoke, plus it’s the perfect accompaniment to freshly shucked oysters and seafood. And, if I drank enough I’d be able to use the corks to float my boat.”   Tulloch Cuvée NV Scott Austin –  Austins & Co, Six Foot Six
“It’s Pinot Gris for me! It’s a real conversation starter, a wine to destress with, to simplify the issues and bring claim to the group of stranded crew, and begin the bonding process for everyone to get to know each other and work out what they will do next. It's crisp and refreshing style will bring light and clarity to an otherwise potentially intense situation.” Six Foot Six Pinot Gris 2016 Anna Watson –  Lost Buoy Wines “I’d take Shiraz to drink with the wild goat we just hunted and cooked, and to drink with the shipwrecked sailors washed up on the shore. And, if it’s cold weather, I could simmer it down for a great mulled wine. However, I’d probably also take a case of Gin - more medicinal". Lost Buoy The Edge Shiraz 2016 Adam Walls – Wine Selector Tasting Panellist and Wine Educator, and Wine Show Judge “Rosé for sure! There is no better wine to have at your disposal when stuck on an island – it’s cold and crisp and defines refreshment. And it blends in perfectly with the colour of your sunburn!’ Chaffey Bros Not Your Grandma’s Rosé 2017 6 Wines for when You're lost-at-sea Throw yourself a life raft and get shipwrecked-ready with the official  Wine Island 6-pack that includes a fantastic selection of favourites including a bottle each of Credaro Five Tales Chardonnay 2016 , Six Foot Six Pinot Gris 2016 ,   Tulloch Cuvée NV , Chaffey Bros Not Your Grandma’s Rosé 2017 , Byron & Harold Rose & Thorns Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 and Lost Buoy The Edge Shiraz 2016 . 
Wine
Know Your Variety - Australian Malbec
Neglected for decades in France as a lesser blending grape, Malbec was resurrected and championed in Argentina as an excellent single varietal wine. It's now having a similar resurgence in Australia, with some excellent Australian Malbec wines appearing in the  Clare Valley ,  Langhorne Creek ,  Margaret River  and  Great Southern . To help us learn more about this plush and fruit driven red wine, we reached out to a few Australian Malbec experts with winemakers from  Forest Hill Wines ,  Bremerton  and Tamburlaine Organic Wines. AUSTRALIAN MALBEC AT A GLANCE THE VARIED ORIGINS OF MALBEC
Malbec (sometimes known as Côt and Auxxerois) originates from the French wine regions of  Bordeaux and Sud-Ouest . However, it was historically viewed as more a blending grape and played second fiddle to the prized Cabernet Sauvignon , Merlot and Grenache vines in those regions. Malbec found its new home in Argentina, where it has been adapted and refined into an excellent single varietal wine style, with excellent examples from the Mendoza region. Today, 75% of the world's Malbec now hails from Argentina, often blended with a touch of Touriga Nacional. MALBEC COMES TO AUSTRALIA
Rebecca Willson , winemaker at Bremerton Wines, argues that Malbec has a spiritual home in South Australia as it "was the first dry red variety ever planted in  Langhorne Creek  by The Potts Family of Bleasdale in the late 1800s". In fact, Bleasdale's first ever single varietal wine was a Malbec in 1961. However, the great red vine cull in the 1970s and 1980s removed many alternate varieties from vineyards across the country. The recent trend of wine lovers searching for new and exciting wine styles to try, has given rise to a modern resurgence. Malbec is now the wine of the moment. Rebecca thinks this is because "the variety offers an alternative to  Shiraz  as our biggest consumed red varietal, it's berry driven and plush." Malbec can be a difficult grape to grow, but today with better viticulture and better strains of the variety, it's thriving in moderate climates such as the Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek, Margaret River and Great Southern. Tamburlaine Organic Wines chief winemaker,  Mark Davidson , notes that "just like in Argentina, the real lesson has been that the wine produced at higher altitudes of 800m to 1000m has really shone". As such, there is great promise for award winning Malbec from emerging cool climate regions such as Canberra or Orange, where  Tamburlaine's excellent Malbec  is sourced. TASTING NOTES With a similar weight to  Shiraz ,  Cabernet Sauvignon  or  Petit Verdot , Malbec has a big, juicy and plush flavour with a robust structure and moderately firm tannins. It has distinctive dark purple colour and notes of red plum, blueberry, vanilla, cocoa and an essence of sweet tobacco. Forest Hill Wines chief winemaker,  Liam Carmody , is rather fond of the "intense purple colour and fruit brightness" of  their Malbec  and notes that it has a "generally softer tannin structure than some other red grape varieties." For Bremerton's Rebecca Willson it's the "violet, currant purple fruits with velvety tannins, plushness and purity" of the variety. MALBEC AND FOOD PAIRING
The bold flavours, robust structure and higher tannins of Malbec call for dishes with a bold flavour to match such as hard cheese, steak or even sausage such as this  chickpea and chorizo hotpot recipe by Miguel Maestre.  Our  Argentinian beef steak with chimichurri sauce recipe  is also a great way to round out an Argentinian themed dinner. Or for a vegetarian option, our spinach and cheese empanadas recipe matches well to a  plush Malbec from Great Southern  . When it comes to Malbec food matches, Bremerton's Rebecca Willson prefers "charcoal barbecue of a great cut from your local butcher, or pulled pork sliders". For Forest Hill Wines' Liam Carmody, Australian Malbec means just one dish, "a rare steak sandwich!" Recommended Recipe:  Miguel Maestre's chickpea and chorizo hotpot TRY AUSTRALIAN MALBEC TODAY Explore Australian Malbec with these great examples that have all passed our rigorous Tasting Panel selection process with flying colours.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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