Sulfites - why?
I was in the liquor store looking at wine and mead--thought it would be a nice addition for Easter dinner. One bottle said, "Contains Only Natural and Organic Sulfites. No Artificial Sulfites Added."
What is the role of sulfites and why should I care? If I was making my own wine/mead, how are they added?
Grant (one very ignorant wine buyer)
Sodium or Potassium metabisulfite, sulfer and its compounds are antibiotic and anti-yeast.
Usually one will add sulfites to wine/mead at 2 different points:
1. When mixing the must. This is to kill any wild yeasties that may cause bad flavors. Many (most?) mead-makers don't bother, due to the anti-bacterial properties of honey, but fruits typically have a lot of wildlife. The sulfites added at this point will be metabolized by the yeast and converted to hydrogen sulfide? and leave, but I'm not sure of that. Cultivated yeast used in wine making typically has a higher sulfite tolerance than the wild for this purpose.
2. When fermentation is done, we want to a) kill the yeast to stop it and b) keep any that may be sleeping from waking up. So some more sulfates are added along with potassium sorbate to keep it asleep.
They are naturally occuring substances and are generally not harmful, although at higher levels can cause problems for people with asthma.
You can skip the sulfites at point #2 above, also, if you're willing to let fermentation go longer in the carboy (or whatever) and live with whatever level of dryness/sweetness that results. You also have to be willing to accept that you may bottle too soon and have natural carbonation, need to bleed pressure off (advantage of Grolsch-style bottles), or risk bottle-bombs.
Sensitivity to sulfites varies. It doesn't always have to be very high levels that can cause a person problems. They cause migraines in my husband, so we don't use them.
As to how sulphites are added..
Sodium metabisulphite is generally available in two forms--1. As a powder 2. In tablet form (generally called campden tablets). Either form can be bought from wine-making supply stores and instructions for the amount to be added are usually on the label of the container. But the basic method is to simply add the powder or the tablet (whole, or better yet, crushed) into the mead.
There are those who say that the sulphite also adds something to the flavor of the mead (or wine) and not only serves as a spoilage preventative/fermentation stopper.
What is a "Natural and Organic Sulfites" as compared to an "Artificial Sulfites"?
I'm not sure if there is an "organic" additive, but that might refer to the sulfites that the yeast naturally produces as it ferments. I believe all wines have some level of sulfites naturally even if none is added. "Artificial" would be any added?
Originally Posted by MichaelW