To Sulfite or Not to Sulfite that is the Question. Is there an Answer?
David Obrien, a new club member recently asked, “Perhaps a newby question…but I have seen the reference to Sulfite at crush in several other threads from other forums…Gene, we did not sulfite at crush? Or did I day dream through that part? Can someone explain.”
Sometimes you don’t know what you ask. But before we all begin a little history……
In the early years when information was at a premium the conventional wisdom was we Sulfite to kill the wild yeast before we started our fermentation with our selected yeast culture. That was the logic. Then we learned a few new things. One our selected yeast could overcome the wild yeast ( native yeast) with no problem. Two we learned that adding K Meta could inhibit MLF later on. So many of us surmised that since we didn’t have to kill the native yeast and we certainly didn’t want to make MLF any more difficult which was prior to the introduction of Alpha and the VP lines of ML bacteria strain. Old Habits die hard. But as time went by slowly many of us stopped the practice of sulfiting the Musts. But the story was far from over.
Then Cold Soaks came along. With them came the subject of grapes that were in poor condition when received. No use lying there were many moldy boxes at Prosperos and Corrados. Our solution was to return them or not accept them in the first place. But what if given no choice. What did others do. Along comes information the sulfiting is the only answer but at a lot higher levels than previously thought or used. Heck to MLF! We have to make wine from this stuff.
But what is happening is the idea that it is Bacteria not Native Yeast should be the focus. So we focus. And we focus because as Trendoids to some degree we now have adopted the latest chichi practice of Cold Soaking. Hmmm Cold Soaking a perfect environment for bacteria growth. So the discussion ensues. At what temperature do we keep the Must to prevent bacteria growth. And all the following posts ad infinitum about dry ice to keep Musts cool.
So that is my take on memory lane. As you asked David were you sleeping? Well not really but…. We did Cold Soak and on two occasions this past season native yeast started the ferment. In a first case, for the past 6 years this was the first time one of them developed an off odor. No I refrained going to the meta jar as the yeast culture was ready to be pitched. in the second case, a bit paranoid from the first I sulfited, lightly. No off odor developed and all continued as expected. Both Musts turned out fine.
So for ME at this time I don’t sulfite unless I see a need. And with the incredible condition we receive grapes from the M&M Grape Company, Delta Packing sourced grapes, Beckstoffer Vinyards and the unparallelled Lanza Grapes I really don’t see the need to sulfite. Cold Soaking excepted, maybe, not sure, jury is out.
So while you David think about all of this there are many here with expertise who I am sure will add their views and opinions. But one thing you can be sure about is this “To Sulfite of Not to Sulfite that is the Question” was not a newbie question at all.