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sulphur (GB)
soufre (F)
zolfo (I)
zwavel (N)
azufre (ES)
enxofre (PO)

The crystalline element (S = Sulfur) with a typical sulfur yellow color is essential for all organisms. How nitrogen it is an important building block of amino acids, Proteins and enzymes, If there is a deficiency in the human, animal and plant organism, the Protein metabolism disturbed. The effect as a preservative in wine was already in the antiquity known to the Greeks and is by Homer (8th century BC), Cato the Elder (234-149 BC) and Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) mentioned. Up until the 17th century, sulfurization was traded as an “arcanum” (secret), that is, as a secret science known only to the initiated, which was not open to the public. After repeated sulphurization, the addition of sulfur to wine was temporarily banned in some countries for health reasons and severely punished for violations.

Sulfur - sulfur crystals and network sulfur

imperial decree

A milestone in European wine history was the permission of Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) to be allowed to sulfurize the wine. This decree was announced in 1487 and the exact quantities were also legally established ten years later. A loth of sulfur was allowed for one fuder Wine can be used. One can no longer be precisely verified today due to this units no longer determine how much that was actually concrete (in various sources, 40 mg / l are mentioned). From this point on, sulphuration was carried out regularly in many wine-growing areas. Wood shavings were soaked in a mixture of powdered sulfur, herbs and incense and the whole thing was burned in an empty wine barrel (just before the wine was bottled). In France, however, the use of sulfur in winemaking was only allowed in the 18th century.

sulfur use

Sulfur is already starting in Weingarten at the vintage as well as in various stages of the winemaking to bottling used. The need or the quantity also depends on the vine, the time of reading, the state of the grapes and the type of wine. Usually need White wines more than red wines because they are much more susceptible to oxidation. Sulfurization is a very effective and efficient preservation, stabilization and hygiene measure. As a result, the enormously active oxidation enzymes are blocked and thus oxidation and prevent spoilage, microorganisms how Acetobacter (Acetic acid bacteria) and wild yeasts are strongly inhibited.

reductive effect

Above all, it is positive reductive Effect of sulfur. Because he reacts so violently oxygen that any other adverse reaction with other substances in the grape or wine is prevented. With that the durability of the wines significantly extended. Furthermore, the sulfur (which is normally only low in every wine) acetaldehyde bound and thus suppresses any oxidation notes. A disadvantage is that the sulfur flavorings something in wine is affected.

sulfur resources

Sulfurization takes place with various sulfur compounds (but is prohibited sulfuric acid ). For the dry preservation of wooden barrels sulfur cuts burned and thereby sulfur dioxide generated. For grapes, Cider and wine are solid and liquid compounds. in the plant protection becomes more powdery wettable sulfur especially against real ones mildew used, which is particularly easy to dissolve in water. The powdery means pyrosulphite (KPS = potassium compound) or metabisulfite (Sodium compound) are added directly to the grapes, so that when stemming and mashing is well mixed. The healthier the grapes, the smaller the amount. That means correspondingly higher quantities botrytisiertem Grapes. The must or wine is added in the form of KPS, liquid sulfur dioxide or also sulphurous acid, The sulfur dioxide and the sulfites react with water or wine to form sulphurous acid. Other sulfur compounds such as Sulfate arise.

negative impacts

Sulfur is essential for healthy plant growth and is absorbed from the soil via the roots. Due to decades of application in the vineyards to combat powdery mildew, there is a surplus in many places ground, Also in many fertilizers such as ammonium sulfate, epsom salt, potassium sulfate and kieserite also contain sulfur. To have surplus also environmental contamination like acid rain contributed by burning sulfur-containing fossil fuels. Improper sulfurization can cause wine defects Schwefelsäurefirn cause. By oxidation of sulphurous acid in the wine sulfuric acid arise. By certain Gärfehler becomes hydrogen sulfide formed by one sulfurous off (Sulfur baker) expresses.

health aspect

Up to limit values, sulfur is also unproblematic for the human body. The WHO has an acceptable daily intake ( ADI ) with a maximum of 0.7 mg per kg body weight. According to the latest knowledge a headache after one Weingenuss not on the sulfur content, but on histamine and other causes. Even small amounts of sulfites can allergenic Have an effect (sulfite asthma). According to the EU regulation, this has been the case with more than 10 mg / l sulfur dioxide or sulfites in wine label to be specified (by the way, this value is exceeded for almost all wines). There are strict EU guidelines for the maximum permissible total content per wine type; see a table under the keyword sulphurous acid,

Alternatives to sulfur

Sulfur is, although often tried, still hardly replaced by other substances in viticulture to this day. Even in Organic (ecological) viticulture one assumes only “as small quantities as possible”. By using ascorbic acid. dimethyldicarbonate. lysozyme or oenological tannins However, the required amount can sometimes be reduced considerably. More and more producers are trying to make do with as little (without) sulfur as possible, especially when making red wine. That has a positive effect on that flavor profile of the wine.

Additional information

All work and measures in the vineyard during the growth cycle can be found at Weingarten Care, Complete lists of the numerous vinification measures or cellar techniques, as well as a list of the wine, sparkling wine and distillate types regulated by wine law are under the keyword winemaking contain. Comprehensive information on wine law is available at wine law,

Left picture: By Rob Lavinsky, - CC BY-SA 3.0 , Link
Right: By Petr Dlouhý - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 , Link

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