Domaine Viret
pictured is Philippe with his father Alaine, of Domaine Viret – stunningly good “cosmoculture” sulphite free wines!

Sulphite Free Wines by True Artisan Producers

As well as our low sulphite artisan wines, we specialise in sulphite free wines. Some of the terminolgy has changed since we set up in 2007. As has been pointed out to me by the Wine Standards Board there is technically no recognition of this term under EU law, but the EU only requires the term “contains sulphites” to be displayed on wines containing more than 10 parts per million (and the same with USA law)). In the EU’s own words, according to Part E of annex II EC No 1333/2008

“Maximum levels are expressed as SO2 relate to the total quantity, available from all sources, an SO2 content of not more than 10 mg/kg or 10 mg/l is not considered to be present”

So this appears to confirm that the EU regards that when levels are 10 parts per million or below, that S02 is not considered to be present. Perhaps not a conclusive official recognition that a wine is sulphite free, but if the EU consider no sulphite is present I can’t see any reason why the wine shouldn’t be referred to as sulphite free to help the consumer make an educated and informed choice.

These wines are made by true artisan producers. They farm the land themselves, often organically or biodynamically although not necessarily certified. They hand pick the grapes into small boxes to avoid damaging them, and are meticulous when it comes to selecting which grapes are used, as perfect quality fruit is a prerequisite for sulphite free wines. Many of them ferment the grapes with their own natural yeasts (although Jonathan Frey uses an introduced organic yeast). And several of them make such small batch wines that they ferment the grapes in small terracota amphorae! They then add nothing to the wines, and take nothing out either, generally bottling them unfiltered. The vast majority of these wines are pure fermented grape juice with nothing added and nothing taken away.

I don’t use the word “artisan” lightly here. Some of our wine producers are truly remarkable, with fascinating stories and modus operandi. It is a joy to discover people making wines like this in these days of commercialisation and globalisation. For example we have a tiny winery in Maremma, Tuscany called Sequerciani. They handmake their wines in terracota amphorae, with a total annual production of just 10,000 bottles. Nothing whatsoever is added and nothing is taken away – just pure fermented grape juice and their wines are beautiful. Then we have Domaine Viret in the Rhone where Philippe has pioneered his own system caled “Cosmoculture”. A fusion of bioenergetic and biodynamic farming principles, where he energises his vines via an underground spring by drawing teleric energy down from the stars through obelisks in his vineyards. His wines are incredible – you may recall Oz Clarke and James May visited them in the first series of their wine show around France. I know Oz polished off “several” bottles that night while camped in Philippe’s garden!

Then there are other great stories such as Costes Cirgues. Beatrice bought an old Chateau to restore which came with about 10 hectares of old vines. Her son David decided he was going to make wine from them, and do it completely naturally with no additives. They make a few thousand bottles each of half a dozen cuvees which are superb and completely sulphite free of course. It is genuine artisan producers like this that make all the difference. This is a world away from the commercial production of mainstream wines. You can really taste the difference as well as feel the genuine benefit of drinking something which is actively good for you.

We import delicious sulphite free wines directly from Audacia and Arid in South Africa, Sequerciani and La Selva in Tuscany, Chateau Costes Cirgues, Qui ai Raisins, Domaine D’Anglas, Domaine Mayrac and Caves de Cairanne in France with a few more producers when we can get them such as Frey in California (sadly not able to ship here at present). Not only are they delicious and actively good for you, they are very competitively priced too as we import all these directly ourselves. The same goes for Domain Viret where frustratingly we’ve not been able to match up our orders with when Philippe has any stock left for some time now. Hopefully we will rectify that this year.

“Philippe Viret makes highly individual wines in the Rhone region that have a deep respect for nature. I love the approach of his two new wines made with low sulfites, So-Lo and Aurum. Sulfite levels are mentioned on the label which is really great and honestly how it should be for all wines. 

Aurum, made from an interesting blend of chardonnay, marsanne and viognier shows lovely purity of aromas of acacia blossom and apricots. This vibrant, mid-weight wine is refreshing, complex with great drinkability.” 

Isabelle Legeron MW and organiser of RAW Natural Wine Fair.

Very impressed – particularly with Solo S02 wine” – comment from wine writer Jamie Goode, June 2011 after tasting our wines from Domaine Viret