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I'm learning about the basics of red wine making from this guide. I have campden tablets (potassium metabisulfate), but I'm really hoping to avoid using sulfites at all.

Because I'm doing a very small batch for myself, I can afford to put in a little extra effort. Will boiling my must right after destemming/crushing in a big pot suffice to sanitize the must in place of using sulfites?

  • Hello and welcome to Beer, Wine, & Spirits! We have another site that's all about homebrewing, so I'll migrate this there. (The community consensus is that those questions are off-topic here but can be moved there.) Good luck with your sulfites problem. – Monica Cellio Aug 24 '16 at 3:32
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I have made many batches of pineapple and blackberry wine, and although every book says I should use campden tablets, I have friends who are intolerance to sulphides.

As such I either pitch a vigorous starter, or heat the must to ~70C for 2 min to pasteurise it, then let it cool before pitching the yeast.

To avoid pectin haze if you go the heating route, just add a small amount of pectonase enzyme, when pitching the yeast.

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I have made many amazing hedgerow wines without using sulphites. I started years ago by using recipes from old farmhouse cook books. These used just basic ingredients which I did too. Mostly I pour boiling water over the wild fruit, leaves etc. when making the first 'must'. Later (after reading more modern wine making books)I started to add some pectolase enzyme just incase of wild yeast remaining. I have never used Campden tablets. I prefer the wine to be as organic as possible so I just leave it a long time (several months) to be sure it has completely finished fermenting. I also advise people I give the odd bottle to, to keep it in a cool place. Yes I have experienced bottles going bang when kept in a warm place! Good luck! I too can't bear to ruin a good wine with nasty chemicals!

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We use Campden (or the purer potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite salts). Initially, we use it to kill off any potentially harmful bacteria that may have hopped a ride in with the base ingredients we use in wine making, and to discourage any wild yeast from gaining a foothold. Campden will not kill yeast, but it creates an environment inhospitable to them. As SO2 released into the must and atmosphere above the must dissipates, the environment slowly changes and the yeast can grow, but by then our cultured wine yeasts, which are more tolerant of SO2, have gotten a good start and "crowd out" the wild yeasts, use up all the dissolved oxygen, and consume all the fermentable sugar and nutrients. In the end, there is nothing left for the wild yeasts and they die without propagating. Adding campden tablets helps stop a wild yeast but a good yeast starter will do that. If adding it a day before you pitch your yeast makes you more comfortable, by all means do it. You won't hurt anything.

No need to heat the juice. Boiling the must will give you pectic haze. Pectin is a complex sugar found in the cell walls of all fruits. This substance is what causes jams and jellies to thicken and has many other uses in the culinary arts. When wines are made from fresh fruit, pectin plays a valuable role in making sure that optimal flavor is extracted. However, if the pectin in the beverage is not properly eliminated during fermentation, the wine can develop a hazy or cloudy appearance as a result of the excess pectin being held in suspension in the fermented liquid.

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  • Doesn't answer the Question -- asker does not want to use Campden or sulfites. – dmtaylor Feb 25 at 12:26
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Never boil your grapes. It will ruin the flavor and make a hazy mess.

Sulfites are a well known and used anti-oxidant. It's been used for thousands of years in wine. They pose relatively low risk. Your raisins and other dried fruit have way more sulfites than wine. Having said that, there are ways to make wine without it but it involves keeping air (oxygen) away from the wine. This might involve putting the wine in a vessel (keg) that you can put it under a slight pressure of nitrogren or argon to exclude all oxygen.

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