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

The crystalline element (S = Sulfur) with typical sulfur yellow color is essential for all organisms. As nitrogen it is an important building block of amino acids, Proteins and enzymes, In the case of deficiency in the human, animal and plant organism is the Protein metabolism disturbed. The effect as a preservative in wine was already in the antiquity known to the Greeks and is from Homer (8th century BC), Cato the Elder (234-149 BC) and Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD). Until the 17th century, sulfur was traded as "arkanum" (secret), that is, as a secret science known only to initiates, which was not publicly accessible. After repeated desulphurisation, the addition of sulfur to wine in some countries was temporarily banned for health reasons and severely punished in case of non-compliance.

Sulfur crystals / net sulfur
Picture left: By Rob Lavinsky, - CC BY-SA 3.0 , Link
Picture right: By Petr Dlouhý - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 , Link

imperial decree

A milestone in the European wine history was the permission of Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) to be allowed to sulfurise the wine. This decree was promulgated in 1487 and the exact quantities were also laid down by law ten years later. A Loth sulfur could be used for a Fuder wine. It is no longer possible, on the basis of units of measure which can no longer be exactly verified, to determine how much that actually was (in various sources 40 mg / l are mentioned). From this point in time, many winegrowing areas used to be sulphurized during winemaking. In the process, wood shavings were soaked in a mixture of powdered sulfur, herbs and frankincense, and the whole thing was burned in an empty wine barrel (just before bottling the wine). In France, however, the use of sulfur in winemaking was allowed only in the 18th century.

sulfur use

Sulfur is already starting today in the vineyard at the vintage as well as in the most different stages of the winemaking to bottling used. The demand or quantity is also dependent on the vine, the time of harvesting, the grape status and the type of wine. Usually need White wines more than red wines because they are much more susceptible to oxidation. Sulfurizing 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 spoiled spoil, microorganisms as Acetobacter (Acetic acid bacteria) and wild ones yeasts are strongly inhibited.

reductive effect

Above all, it is positive reductive Effect of sulfur. He reacts so violently with oxygen that any other adverse reaction with other substances in the grape or wine is prevented. This will be the durability the wines significantly extended. Furthermore, the sulfur (usually low in every wine) acetaldehyde bound and thus suppressed any oxidation notes. A disadvantage is that by sulfur the flavorings in the wine but something be affected.

sulfur resources

The sulfur 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, Must and wine, there are solid and liquid compounds. in the plant protection becomes more powdery wettable sulfur especially against real ones mildew used, which can be solved very well in water. The powdery means pyrosulphite (KPS = potassium compound) or metabisulfite (Sodium compound) are added directly to the grapes, so when stemming and mashing a good mixing occurs. The healthier the grapes, the smaller the amount. This means correspondingly higher amounts at botrytisiertem Grapes. An addition to the must or wine is in the form of KPS, liquid sulfur dioxide or even from sulphurous acid, The sulfur dioxide and the sulfites react with water or wine to sulfurous acid. Further reactions can lead to other sulfur compounds such as Sulfate arise.

negative effects

Sulfur is essential for healthy plant growth and is absorbed through the roots from the soil. Due to decades of application to the vineyards in order 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 contains sulfur. The environmental surplus also has a surplus contamination how acid rain has contributed to the burning of sulphurous, fossil fuels. Improper sulfurization can damage the wine Schwefelsäurefirn cause. By oxidation of sulphurous acid in the wine can sulfuric acid arise. By certain Gärfehler becomes hydrogen sulfide formed by a sulfurous off (Schwefelböckser) expresses.

health aspect

Sulfur up to limit values ​​is also unproblematic for the human body. WHO has the acceptable daily intake ( ADI ) with a maximum of 0.7 mg per kg body weight. According to the latest findings a headache after one Weingenuss not on the sulfur content, but on histamine and other causes. However, even small amounts of sulfites can allergenic Have effect (sulfitic asthma). Since 2005, according to the EU regulation, at more than 10 mg / l content sulfur dioxide or sulphites in wine this is label (this value is exceeded by the way, almost all wines). There are strict EU directives for the maximum total content per type of wine; see a table under the keyword sulphurous acid,

Alternatives for sulfur

Sulfur is, although often tried to replace today in viticulture by other substances hardly completely. Even in the Organic (organic) viticulture one starts only from "the smallest possible quantities". By using ascorbic acid. dimethyldicarbonate. lysozyme or oenological tannins but the required amount can sometimes even be greatly reduced. More and more producers are trying to get by, especially with the red wine preparation, with as little (without) sulfur as possible. That has a positive effect on that flavor profile of the wine.

Additional information

All work and measures in the vineyard in the course of the growth cycle one finds below Weingarten Care, Complete listings of the numerous vinification measures or cellar techniques, as well as a list of wine-regulated wine, sparkling wine and distillate types are under the keyword winemaking contain. Comprehensive information under wine law is available at wine law,

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