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Feb 25, 2008 06:18 PM


I just got a bottle of 2005 Vacqueyras Vieilles Vignes.
( N.B. the "pour", not "par"). Imported by Wine Warehouse, Los Angeles, CA.
Anyways, the part of the label that struck my attention is the "Contains Sulfites E220"
As far as I can remember, I never saw before a sulphur dioxide additive fully spelled out on the label.
Not that I'm particularly squeamish about, but it sounds not too good for business.
People can start looking around ( like here: ) and get ideas.

I remember many years ago a wine producer telling me that "sulfites" in his world consisted in dropping a few copper coins into the barrel. Somehow, that let's call it "innocent" idea stuck deep somewhere in my brain tissue. The "E220" on the Lesec was a rude awakening!

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  1. I've seen many labels with either "Contains Sulfites / Sulphites" or "Preservative (220) added". The latter tends to appear on bottles from Australia and New Zealand.

    Nearly all wines have sulfites added to them. Read more here:

    1. Rude awakening?!?!? Let's not get carried away, shall we . . .

      This is not (necessarily) an additive. Remember that SO2 is a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation, as well as something a winery could add if they so choose.

      In the US, a wine may contain a maximum of 300 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur dioxide. The average level of SO2 is one-tenth of that, 30 ppm. And if a wine contains more than 10 ppm, that little warning message, "Contains Sulfites," must appear on the wine label. If a US winery doesn't want to print "Contains Sulfites" on their label, the alternate wording (as permitted by the US Govt.) is "Contains Sulfiting Agent."

      Which would you choose?

      "Preservative 220" is -- as "newJJD" has already pointed out -- is the common way of saying "Contains Sulfites" on the labels of Australian and New Zealand wine. The "E220" is no different.


      P.S. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a VERY different thing than adding copper sulfate (CuSO4) -- the copper penny thing.

      2 Replies
      1. re: zin1953

        A very traditional producer in the Southern Rhone mentioned to me the "copper penny thing", that was back in 2001.
        Suposedly, that was all he did, no SO2. (His CdP was fantastic, btw).
        Are you aware of anybody else doing that? Or was it just BS?

        1. re: RicRios

          Copper sulfate is only used to correct a specific flaw in the wine.

          Sulfur dioxide is a naturally-occurring by-product of fermentation. Some (most) producers will also add/adjust the level fo SO2 in the wine prior to bottling. It is distinctly possible this specific producer did not/does not ADD any SO2 prior to bottling, but it would be extremely unlikely that the wine contained absolutely zero ppm SO2.


      2. If you never saw a sulphite warning before then presumably you have been drinking predominately European wine or only wine sold in Europe, because wines sold in the USA and Australia have had similar warnings for years.

        Wines sold in the EU bottled after September (or October???) have also had to have this stupid warning, so you'll be seeing it a lot more.

        One good dea that the EU did have, which was wrecked by ignorant consumers, was to give a number to each permitted food additive, prefixed with an E.

        In a multi language community it seemed a good idea to allow manufacturers to use one number instead of wrting the chemical name in every language where they sold the product; and for the consumer travelling in a country with a different language, it made sense because they could easily identify any additive they wanted to avoid.

        But somehow E-numbers got a bad name, they got associated with controversial additives like tartrazine, so people thought all E-numbers were bad and manufacturers stopped using them and when back to the name in their own language........

        Anyway, a whole load io Europeans who have been drinking wine happily for donkeys years without any concern except getting drunk are now getting all riled up about something which none of them had ever heard of before the end of 2006.

        All wine has sulphites. If you have a medical problem with sulphites (i.e. one of a rare percentage of asthmatics) then you'll alreadyknow about it because there are a ton of products, including fruit juices, that have them.

        The information on the webpage you link to sounds extreme. This one puts a different slant on it - http://www.understandingfoodadditives...

        Sulfur dioxide and sulfites (E220-E228)
        This preservative was known to the Romans, Ancient Greeks and Egyptians who used the gas to preserve wine.

        These preservatives are multifunctional food ingredients which act as preservatives, antioxidants and colour stabilisers. They have a much more pronounced antibacterial effect than other preservatives and are therefore used when control of bacterial growth is essential.

        Sulfur dioxide is used in a wide range of products including packet soup, dried bananas and apricots, tinned crabmeat, sausage meat, beer, wine, quick frozen chips and jams.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Gussie Finknottle

          Wine bottled after January 1,1987 -- regardless of origin -- and sold in the U.S. have had to have the sulfite warning message on their labels. The country of origin is irrelevant; the labeling is madatory for sale in the US.


          1. re: Gussie Finknottle

            My original comment was not triggered by the "Contains Sulfites" warning, that as Jason points out above has been in use in the USA for many many years now. My surprise was the mention in this particular label of a specific E number right next to the warning, and the possibility that potential consumers might get discouraged by scary descriptions of "E220" like the one I quoted. Many people associate the 'Sulfites' warning with some natural or, better put, "traditional" process that doesn't involve bags of stuff manufactured by Dow et al. Similarly, we all think of "tannins" as stuff that naturally happens when wine spends some time in wood barrels, plus the skin in the grapes, &etc. As opposed to ... bags of chemical tannin being added to the mix, wich unfortunately happens more often than we think. I'm now on the lookout for labels with an E number for the tannin additives. ( E181 anyone? )

          2. I don't recall seeing the specific numeric listing for sulfites, but maybe it's because I don't pay much attention to sulfite warnings, since
            1--sulfites are a by-product of fermentation, and not necessarily added, and
            2--there is a massive amount of inaccurate information out about them.

            Read more here: