pH and Sulfur Dioxide: The Dynamic Duo of Winemaking

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If you are making wine and could only choose two aspects to monitor, make it pH and Sulfur Dioxide.  So said my boss, the wine maker.

I  nod my head yes yes as this  is only my second week of exposure to the world of winemaking, so she might as well be telling me that the most important thing for winemaking is fermenting in the light of the waxing moon. I have zero practical knowledge and almost zero theoretical knowledge. I’m here to learn, so I soak up every word (I take lots of notes).  She gives me a link to an article “ Sulfur Dioxide The Science behind this anti-microbial, anti-oxidant wine additive.” from The Practical Winery and Vineyard Journal, which she promises is a great article on Sulfur Dioxide. And it is. The authors do a fantastic job distilling the complexities of SO2 down into the most important parts .

Basic concepts I’ve learned at work and from reading:

  • You need to use less SO2 at lower pH levels
  • Topping wine barrels is a method used to protect the wine. It eliminates the head space which is filled with oxygen which leaves a space for microorganisms to grow during malolactic fermentation .
  • SO2 protects against chemical oxidation and microrganism?
  • SO2 is added at different times in winemaking depending on goals and the type of wine: based on the wine production stage, whether there will be malolactic fermentation, and the time frame until wine is consumed
  • SO2 protects wine and can solve some issues after the fact.

Other stuff( learned from article):

Hydrogen disulfide (H2S): is a wine spoilage compound, smells like rotten eggs

-Often caused by left over sulfur dust on grapes from harvest

– Can also form mercaptans

*SO2 exists in two forms: free and bound. Wine makers only care about the free form.

This article does a really great job of simplifying complex concepts into laymen terms and giving solid points of reference and more concepts to research.  If you’re an aspiring winemaker, wine geek or just curious about winemaking I highly recommend it! Check in for more learning next week!

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