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08/05/2012

Italy: sulphite content in organic wine a bone of contention

by Kai Kreuzer

Italy: sulphite content in organic wine a bone of contention photo: NürnbergMesse

On 8 February 2012, the Standing Committee on Organic Farming (SCOF) agreed a new regulation for organic wine production. The new regulation means that wine from the 2012 harvest can for the first time be called organic wine if the grapes were cultivated organically.

According to a report by the Reuters news agency, Italian farmers are criticising the criteria as too slack. The stumbling block is the permitted sulphite content. Although the permitted level in organic red wine is 50 mg less than in conventional red wine and rosé, organic red wine is still allowed to contain up to 100 mg/l. White wine and rosé are permitted to contain 150 mg/l. The wine expert Domenico Bosco from the farmers’ association Coldiretti is reported as saying that they are not satisfied with these levels. He proposes reducing the sulphite content by a half, with the aim of eliminating its use completely within three to five years. After Spain, Italy is the second biggest producer of organic wine, with 200 million litres from organically grown grapes. In 2010, Italy had around 30,000 ha of organic vines and 22,000 ha in conversion. Sulphites mean that wines can be stored and will remain stable for decades. They eliminate undesirable fermentation in wines with residual sweetness after bottling by preventing microorganisms like yeasts getting to work. Wine has a natural sulphite content of up to 10 mg/l.

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