Worried about sulfites in wines? An Argentinian winery with a long history of organic farming is trying to put those fears to rest.
Domaine Bousquet of Mendoza is producing three all-organic red wines under its Virgen label that contain “no added sulfites” – except for those sulfites that are “naturally occurring.”
The 2019 vintage wines – Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Blend – sell for $13 each, come in screwcap bottles, and carry a USDA seal certifying the grapes are 100 percent organically grown .
I tasted the wines separately over three days and found them quite satisfying. They are easy-drinking, smooth, and better than average in the taste category.
Also, since sulfites are used as a preservative in wines to lock in freshness, I didn’t detect any lack of integrity whatsoever. If anything seemed different, it fell to the color of the wines; they were a tad lighter in the glass than what I normally see from newly released dark purple Cabernets and plummy Malbecs. Still, it didn’t make much difference. I would suspect these wines are best when consumed within the first year or two of sale.
- Overall, the Virgen wines are quality crafted and open up a wide range of options for eco- and health-conscious consumers.
- More on the wines soon, but first let’s clear up several misconceptions about sulfites.
- Sulfites – or sulfur – are chemical preservatives that keep wines – and processed foods – fresh, tasty and pleasant smelling.
- The United States is one of the few nations that regulates sulfites in beverages and processed foods.
- Vintners are required to label for sulfites for any amount above 10 parts per million (ppm) which is the equivalent to 10 milligrams per liter (mg/l).
- The legal limit is 350 ppm, and wines sold in the U.S. contain between 5 ppm to 200 ppm.
- There are less sulfites in a dry red wines (50 to 75 ppm) than a similar white wines (100 ppm).
While red wines are blamed for causing “sulfite headaches”, the truth is that other factors – processed foods, allergies, sulfite sensitivity – are likely the primary reason for a throbbing head.
The drier the wine, the less the need for sulfites in a wine. This is important. High alcohol wines with medium-to-high acid levels contain less sugar – and sugar content is a driver behind sulfite usage. (Note: Check the alcohol level on the bottle. The higher the alcohol percentage, the lower the sugar level.)
A bottle of wine contains less sulfites than most processed and pre-packaged foods such as soups, 500 ppm; frozen juices, 1,500 ppm; French fries 1,850 ppm; and dried fruit, 3,700 ppm).
However, there are people who are “sulfite sensitive” and suffer allergic reactions – hives, headaches, dizziness, chest tightening – upon ingesting these chemical additives. Asthmatics are particularly prone to such reactions.
Today, no one really has to feel left out when it comes to drinking a glass of wine. Sustainable farming methods and organic grape growing are eliminating chemicals from vineyards and production facilities.
Domaine Bousquet has been taking a minimalist approach to farming and wine making since 1997. The winery’s move to reduce sulfites from what naturally occurs in the viticultural process is another innovation that should bring joy to millions around the world.
Bousquet Virgen Organic Malbec, abv. 14.5% – Jean Bousquet sold his French properties to launch his “virgin” land project in Mendoza in 1997, planting vines in desert-like, sandy soils high in the Andes Mountains. Many were skeptical of Bousquet’s arid site in the Alto Gualtarry (subregion of Tupungato). Today, Domaine Bousquet is one of Argentina’s top producers and annually sells 100,000 cases of organic wines alone in the U.S.
Virgen Malbec is appealing for its violet and plum notes and spicy finish. It is medium-bodied, high in alcohol (14.5%), bright in acidity, and dry. We enjoyed it with friends on our Wednesday Nacho Night, which also featured beef burritos and chicken quesadillas.
Bousquet Virgen Organic Red Blend, abv. 14.3% – Grapes used in all Virgen wines are estate grown in high-altitude vineyards that get plenty of sunshine and ripen fully. It’s ideal for this flavorful red mix of 35% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc.
Virgen Red Blend sees little oak, allowing the fruit to emerge with deep blackberry and red cherry notes. A black pepper bite captures the palate’s attention on the dry, smooth finish. There’s added structure to the body and good acidity.
We enjoyed the wine on a cool night when I sparked up the grill for a meal of sweet Italian sausages, hamburgers and charred vegetables.
Virgen Cabernet Sauvignon, abv. 14.3% – The vineyards for this wine are located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains at the 4,000-foot level. It can get cool at night, but most days are warm and sunny helping the thick-skinned cabernet sauvignon grapes to mature steadily while retaining their freshness and acidity. While medium-bodied, the moderate tannins give this wine a bit more grip than found in the other Virgen reds. I liked that bigger mouthfeel. The wine boasts plenty of black and red fruit flavor with little trace of oak.
For $13 a bottle, Virgen Cabernet Sauvignon represents an awesome value for every-day drinking and casual enjoyment. It paired well with steak tips, porcini mushrooms, baked potato and a green salad.