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What's Allowed In Your Wine and its Winemaking

There's recently been a bit of a fuss about some proposed changes to wine labeling in this country. That discussion at the very least raises the issue that most consumers have no idea what is both commonly, and also occasionally, done to their wine during winemaking, and what ends up in the bottle.

Careful. Don't freak out. This is not an alarmist rant, nor should you turn it into one. Many of these things have been done to wine for centuries. It's good for you to know however, what is allowed.

According to a report by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, the following additives, treatments and processes are currently allowed in the United States and my understanding of what each is used for:


  • Malic acid -- added to boost acidity of wine.

  • Tartaric acid -- added to boost acidity of wine.

  • Silicon dioxide -- used to filter and fine wine.

  • Edible gelatin -- used to clarify and fine wine (remove sediments).

  • Gum arabic -- used to clarify wine (remove sediments). Up to .24 grams per liter can be used for treatment.

  • Aluminum silicates (bentonite or kaolin) -- used to clarify/fine wine.

  • Miscellaneous filtration substances (diatomaceous earth, cellulose, etc.) -- used to filter wine.

  • Polyvinyl-polypyr-rolidone -- used to modify color of wine, reduce tannins. Up to 7.19 grams per liter allowed for treatment.

  • Activated charcoal -- used to filter wine and improve color. Up to 3 grams per liter allowed for treatment.

  • Water / H20 -- used to reduce alcohol levels, reduce acidity. Up to 35% of total volume. Not allowed in California.

  • Concentrated grape must -- used to improve body, flavor, color.

  • Saccharose -- used to increase sugar levels of wine. Not allowed in California.

  • Distilled alcohol -- used to fortify alcohol levels in wine.

  • Oxygen -- used to improve texture, tannin development.

  • Cellulase -- enzyme that assists in the hydrolization of cellulose, a key process in fermentation.

  • Protease -- enzyme that kills some bacterial agents and makes wine less heat-sensitive and less likely to throw sediment.

  • Betaglucanase -- enzyme used to reduce sediments.

  • Pectolytics - -- enzymes that assist in the hydrolization / breakdown of pectin into pectic acid and methanol during fermentation which tends to clarify the wine.

  • Yeast -- required agent of the fermentation process, converts sugar from grapes into alcohol and lots of tasty flavors.

  • Yeast cell walls -- bits of yeast cells that absorb anthocyanins (bitter tasting compounds) during red wine production and make the wine smoother.

  • Lysosome -- I have no idea what this is used for.

  • Ascorbic acid --preservative, anti-bacterial agent.


  • Fumaric acid (3 grams per liter, max) -- used to boost acidity of wine.

  • Lactic acid -- used to boost acidity of wine, improve texture.

  • Potassium caseinate -- used to clarify wine / remove sediment.

  • Casein -- used to clarify wine / remove sediment.

  • Isinglass -- a fish product used to clarify wine / remove sediment.

  • Milk/lactalbumin -- used to clarify wine / remove sediment.

  • Ovalbumin (egg whites) -- used to clarify wine / remove sediment.

  • Ferrous sulfate -- used to clarify wine. 0.0222 grams per liter allowed in finished wine.

  • Lactic bacteria -- used to reduce the acidity of wine.

  • Potassium carbonate -- used to reduce the acidity of wine down to acid levels of 5 grams per liter only.

  • Potassium bicarbonate -- used to reduce the acidity of wine.

  • Calcium carbonate -- used to reduce the acidity of wine down to acid levels of 5 grams per liter only.

  • Copper sulfate -- used to suppress bacterial growth, eliminate off odors. 6 mg per liter allowed for treatment. .5mg per liter allowed in finished wine.

  • Oak chips -- used to improve wine flavor.

  • Acetaldehyde -- inhibits microbial growth and stabilizes the color of wine. Up to 300 parts per million used in treatment. up to .5mg per liter allowed in finished wine.

  • Granular cork -- used to smooth the texture of wines. Up to 1.2 grams per liter may be used for treatment.

  • Catalase -- enzyme that counters bacterial agents in wine.

  • Glucose oxidase -- enzyme used to keep color of white wine stable with age.

  • Urease -- enzyme used to reduce sediments in wine.

  • Thiamine hydrochloride -- (aka Vitamin B) food for yeast that is used to help finish fermentation.

  • Soy flour -- food for yeast to increase and encourage secondary fermentation.

  • Ammonium phosphate -- assists in fermentation, can help accelerate or "un-stuck" fermentation.

  • Diammonium phosphate -- assists in fermentation, can help accelerate or "un-stuck" fermentation.

  • Sorbic acid -- preservative.

  • Sulfur dioxide -- preservative, anti-bacterial agent.

  • Nitrogen -- preservative.

  • Dimethyl dicarbonate -- preservative.

  • Carbon dioxide -- used to create sparkling wines.

  • Potassium metabisulphite -- bacterial inhibitor and preservative.

  • Potassium sorbate -- bacterial inhibitor and preservative used in conjunction with potassium and copper sulfites.

  • Ferrocyanide compounds -- used in clarifying/fining wines. Only allowed at 1 part per million in finished wine.

  • Citric acid -- occasionally used to increase acid levels of white wines. Allowed use of .7 grams per liter.

  • Potassium bitartrate -- stabilizer, prevents sedimentation.

  • Fruit concentrate of same grape variety -- used to improve color and flavor.


  • Centrifuging -- used for various reasons, but commonly to remove yeast from wine before the completion of fermentation.

  • Micro, Nano filtration -- removal of sediment from wine.

  • Reverse Osmosis -- used to reduce alcohol levels.

  • Evaporation -- allowed during fermentation process only.

  • Thermal treatment -- aids in color extraction.

  • Electrodialysis -- a way of preventing tartrate based sedimentation in wines.

  • Ion Exchange Resin -- a way of preventing tartrate based sedimentation in wines.

  • Spinning Cone treatment -- used to reduce alcohol levels.

  • Thermal gradient processing -- used to fine tune alcohol levels.

  • Thin film evaporation under reduced pressure -- used to fine tune alcohol levels.

  • Metal/sulfide reducing matrix sheet -- I have no idea what this is used for.

One of the interesting aspects of this report is that it compares what is allowed under the laws of the United States, the European Union, Switzerland, and the OIVs own guidelines. Lots of people like to think that American is wildly lenient and unregulated when it comes to additives and processing in wine, but this report makes it clear that is not the case. You can play casino paypal while enjoying this wine and you are able to play casino games through casino paypal website. Most of this stuff, with a few notable exceptions is perfectly legal in France and Italy as well -- two places that are often held up as bastions of "traditional" winemaking practices. Of course, these are just regulations about what is allowed under law, we don't know what is actually used.

Which brings me to the "so what" of this list. It's clear that we need a combination of better consumer education and better labeling laws so that people can fully understand what has been used to make their wine, and what is actually in the wine bottle that they pull off the shelf.

Not being a professional winemaker, this list also makes me wonder what is the absolute minimum amount of these additives or materials that needs to be used in winemaking. Is it possible to make a wine with none of the above?

Thanks to Alfonso, who runs the blog On The Wine Trail in Italy, for sending me the link. Now excuse me while I go figure out how to add diammonium phosphate as a descriptor in my tasting notes.

Comments (43)

04.29.07 at 6:15 PM

Actually it would be a lack of DAP (diammonium phosphate) that would register as a sensory characteristic (and a negative one) if the nutrition of the must was lacking.

DAP is just a way to give yeast the Nitrogen they need to do their jobs without producing rotten-eggy off odors. But in and of itself, in typical amounts, DAP doesn't add anything to the sensory profile of a wine.

Great post, but I would venture to say that no one makes wine without using at least a few of the chemicals, processes and/or treatments listed above (No evaporation allowed? No barrels then!).

The interesting question for me is, would consumers actually want us to?

Melanie wrote:
04.29.07 at 7:53 PM

I know when I shop, I stay away from things that have some version of sugar/corn syrup/etc, foods that have trans fats...but when I shop for wine, there's no way I could remember that list, much less decipher which on that list should be avoided, or looked for specifically. I suppose I'd rather stay away from preservatives in general, since I try to avoid those as much as possible in other things; but wouldn't wine need them to some extent, especially the ones that sit in my wine rack for a long time?
Thank you for posting this information, even though I have to say, I'm not quite sure what to do with all of it.

John wrote:
04.29.07 at 9:55 PM

This list has a lot of sloppy information, to the point of its usefulness being marginal. For one thing, SO2 (sulfur dioxide) is not used to filter wine, it's a preservative and an antimicrobial agent. Likewise, fining agents like bentonite do not "filter" wine; that is a physical process different from fining (which explains why they have to tell you it's unfined AND unfiltered).

For people who are into avoiding additives, it's not really going to tell you much. For people who are wondering what kinds of adulterations have been done to their favorite tipple, it's just too full of misstatement to get a handle on what they are and are not doing.

I make wine; it's pretty difficult to get through the entire process without using yeast, malolactic bacteria, yeast food, diammonium phosphate, and at least a little SO2, but some people prove it's not impossible. The rest, to the extent it's used at all (malic acid ADDED? hadn't heard that one before) is basically a sop to consumer preferences for clarity and predictability and the winemaker's pursuit of a target profile when his/her grapes are less than 100% suited to the goal.

Alder wrote:
04.29.07 at 10:04 PM


Happy to have you correct me. Perhaps you misread "Silicon Dioxide" for Sulfur Dioxide, though? There is a separate entry for Sulfur...


John wrote:
04.29.07 at 10:34 PM

We grow silicon dioxide on semiconductor wafers down here to make microchips. Went right past me that they thought of a way to use it making wine. I wonder exactly how.

And yeah now I do see SO2 also listed, and correctly too. So OK, I overstated the terribleness of the list.

Alder wrote:
04.29.07 at 10:58 PM


I think it is used in a colloidal form for fining, and in a gel form for filtering.

Paul Sharp wrote:
04.30.07 at 1:17 AM

Hi Alder,
Your correct silicon dioxide is a fining agent that works by forming an electrostatic bond with oppositely charged particles. It’s quite handy for cleaning up wines that have had a little two much protein fining. It’s sometimes known as Silica Sol or Kieselsol or Baykisol.

VargaBalint wrote:
04.30.07 at 4:47 AM

Pouring water in wine is a little bit strange for a European.

Blair wrote:
04.30.07 at 6:29 AM

Lysozyme- It attacks certain spoilage bacteria, like Lactobacillus, but will lose activity after a few days. This means that you can use it in a wine before you inoculate with Oenococcus for malolactic bacteria. The other option being adding a lethal dose of sulphur, which would prevent you from going through malo and would lead to problems down the road during aging or in the bottle.

Also adding Malic acid post fermentation is actually quite common for me. I think it has a better mouth feel than tartaric late int he game. I also like a little bump of it to freshen up some wines right before bottling, but can't add tartaric because it might cause instability.

Carl wrote:
04.30.07 at 8:47 AM

What I really want to know is, how the hell did winemakers make wine without all this stuff, say 100 years ago, or 1,000 years ago for that matter? They must have been drunk all the time with all the "imperfect" wine to dispose of. God forbid anybody should actually drink unfiltered wine. (What happened to fining with egg whites?)

Doug wrote:
04.30.07 at 9:06 AM

Great post and important discussion - I usually subscribe to the thinking that less is more.

Alder wrote:
04.30.07 at 9:25 AM


Yes, it's understandable that "watering down" seems strange to most Europeans, especially since in Europe the big struggle is to get grapes ripe. But in the US, we often have the problem of over-ripeness, where the grapes are harvested at such a high brix level that they would produce wines of 16% alcohol or higher (if they actually finish fermentation at all). So sometimes people (even in California where it is illegal) add some water to the must.

Alder wrote:
04.30.07 at 9:30 AM


Egg whites are on the list (see ovalbumen) but that is a good question. My answer (which is not expert) is that some of these things HAVE been around for a long time. Sulfur certainly has. And a lot of these items are used for managing the alcohol level and the sedimentation of wines, both of which no one cared about 450 years ago.

And yes, I think they WERE drunk most of the time. Remember that wine was used almost medicinally as the alcohol helped kill bacteria that was quite common in poorly stored foods at the time.

Carl wrote:
04.30.07 at 9:51 AM


"I think they WERE drunk most of the time. Remember that wine was used almost medicinally as the alcohol helped kill bacteria that was quite common in poorly stored foods at the time."

Wine as medicine... now those WERE the good old days...

Yes, I realize a lot of things on the list are actually the active ingredients in common substances that have been used in winemaking for centuries. Still, you have to be vigilant. Why, just the other day I actually found some trace amounts of sodium chloride on my McDonald's freedom fries.

Arthur wrote:
04.30.07 at 9:54 AM

It's a good idea to ask oneself: "How many of these things have to be used/done if you start with great fruit, pick it at the right time and then use good techniques and skills?"

Not all these methods are employed at the same time, in the same wine, but they are part of a broad 'arsenal' of tools a winemaker has on reserve to make the connection between the potential of the fruit in its raw state (vintage variation) and the standard of wine desired (consumer expectation (and other parameters)).

These methods are allowed in the “Old World” precisely because the climates in those countries are more variable (year-to-year) and result in more variation in crop quality.

Alder, I have heard Central Coast winemakers admit to "watering back" their must. My understanding is that it IS legal in CA.

BrooklynGuy wrote:
04.30.07 at 11:44 AM

I am a consumer who's purchases would definitely be informed by whether or not these ingredients are added to a wine. I would like to be able to read what is added to wine by looking at the label (or at least in a publication that is free and put out by a national wine concern with FDA collaboration).

I certainly respect commenter John the winemaker's point that it is hard to make wine without some of these products. To me, that has nothing to do with whether or not consumers should have access to basic information about the food that we buy.

Why do winemakers take it as criticism that consumers want information about what's in wine?

In other words, get over it pal - make wine however you want to, but don't be afraid to tell those of us who might buy what you make exactly what you put in it.

Dino wrote:
04.30.07 at 2:18 PM

I thought a lysosome was an organelle found in eucaryotic cells, and lysozyme was the enzyme, but the function is the same - attack anything foreign that atttempts to enter the body or cell and lyse (disintegrate) it. Lysozyme is found in saliva, where it attacks any organic substance that enters the mouth. There are tastes in wine that develop only after mouth enzymes, including lysozyme, have had a moment to act on the wine. The action of the mouth bacteria contribute to the "length" of finish in wine. Herve This discusses Length in the Mouth" in his book, MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY. Use of lyases in wine making suggests to me that a wine maker might be using enzymatic means to amplify aromatic components present in taste precursors.

Jerry D. Murray wrote:
04.30.07 at 2:41 PM

Alder, you may have created a community of web monsters with this post. First I would say, as a winemaker, that I agree with Arthur. Some of these substances and process are rarely used, other are frequently used. The degree to which they are used is a result of the condition of the fruit. Over cropping, poor sight selection, poor management and bad weather will all increase the potential of these things to be used. Which brings me to the relationship between these things and quality. Great wines are made in the vineyard, this is an inescapable fact. Great wines and winemakers seeking to produce them rely LESS on these 'heroic measures'. Though we all use them they are not a part of standard opporating procedure for the production of premium wines. These producers rely more on meticulous viticulture.

Varga, I would point to the 2003 vintage in Burgundy. Watering, though illegal in France ( last I heard ), can improve wine quality. The french speak of adding 'ice' or finding 'black snakes' ( water hoses ) in thier fermentors. Californians do it and have taught us Oregonians how. Again 2003 pinot noirs across the nothern hemisphere suffered from excessive alcohol. Many producers, puritsts, produced wines of poor balance and structure because they refused to make adjustments. Those who added water ( upto 5% ) saved thier vintage and made beautiful wines.
I will admit this is a generalization.

Brooklyn Guy, until laws are passed that make us put these things on labels, and even then maybe not, winemakers and marketers will continue to lie and deny. So much of selling wine is IMAGE and no one is going to step out of the pack and say " we use additives, preservatives, enzymes, chemicals to increase color and body, we put the wines through as many machines as we can afford...please enjoy!" even though it happens. In my cellar I take a full disclosure stance. I will tell you what I have done, when and why, and I have used several of the things from the above list. I come clean because I work hard to grow great wine and only occasionally make adjustments ( except tartaric acid which nearly everyone uses ). I also prioritize 'softer' and more 'natural' means over more 'aggresive' additives and take the time to work my way up to 'heroic measures' if necassary. There is no shame in my game, I have nothing to hide. I also think you have a right to know but don't think that is a common attitude in this industry.

Paul Sharp wrote:
04.30.07 at 3:05 PM

That's a really progressive attitude your taking with your labeling. Highly commendable but rare unfortunately. What's your winery's name?

Blair wrote:
04.30.07 at 3:16 PM

I was attempting to keep from being to technical, but if I must go a bit go a little deeper into the topic on enzymes in winemaking I guess I will. Lysozyme does not attack indescriminatly, it attack protiens in the cell walls of gram positive bateria. This group of bacteria includes most if not all of the bacteria capable of converting Malic Acid to Lactic acid. Like I said above it is used to help control spoilage bacteria in wine that is not ready to be finished with sulphur. Now a few other enzymes are used and I'm a little less skilled at spelling these. Easiest to spell is the pectinases, you might be familiar with pectin is you ever canned your jelly. While wine grapes don't have enough pectin to cause the freshly pressed juice to gel they do have enough to slow down settling, especially in high protien varieties like Sauvignon Blanc. Addition of pectinase settling enzymes and the ability for wineries to recover more clearer juice (< 150 NUTs) is one of the many tools used in producing the crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blancs that we enjoy today. Another class of enzymes that I would like to touch on is the glucasidases ( I doubt I spelled that correctly). I really am not qualified to talk about these, but I will give it a try and would love to be corrected by someone who is more familar with thier use. These would be the enzymes that break apart the aroma precursors for many of the tropical (among others but this is the only example that I can think of right now) aromas that one would find in the riper styles of Sauvignon Blanc or the floral aromas of Geuwertztraminer and Viognier. I guess one other catagory would be cellulases that attack the cell walls and help with extraction in red wines. I have never used these, but I know they are available.

Wow sorry if that was a little too indepth or was hard to follow, I'm a winemaker. Thats why I usually just lurk and let Alder to the typing.

St. Vini wrote:
04.30.07 at 3:44 PM

There have been times where loads of grapes have been heavily "washed down" with clean water before heading to the crushpad. Any other "additions" made at this point do not have to be reported either.....


Dino wrote:
04.30.07 at 7:45 PM


I don’t want to get too technical either, because I am not an authority on enzyme activity, but salivary digestion is well known to biochemists. My forty-year old undergraduate biochemistry text discusses it at some length. Lysozyme was the third or fourth enzyme to be sequenced (1963), and it is known to have a roll in human digestion.

The specific example cited by H. This is a study of the development of “boxwood” notes in sauv blancs, the flavors/odors develop in the mouth, as a result of enzymatic activity, not in the fermentation vat. The study was authored by Darriet, Dobouridieu, et al., from the Institute d’Oenologie de Bordeaux, Flav. Chem. J., 10:385 (1995). I am sure there are others. I admit that I have not read the original reference, I do not have ready access to it in retirement and suspect that it is in French, anyway. Rather, I have relied on This’ summary. I do know that the enzymes in human saliva include catalase, urease, protease, and lysozyme. All are powerful enzymes, so that although the stated purpose for their addition is bactericidal activity, they will try to digest any organic substrate that they contact . Their “purpose in life” is to prevent foreign substances from entering the alimentary tract. Their potential use as “maturing agents’ for wine did not escape my attention. To deny these effects because the enzymes are added to the must to kill bacteria, is, in my opinion, somewhat disingenuous.

Blair wrote:
04.30.07 at 8:33 PM

Hey it took me a couple readings of our original messages and your last response to see where the communication broke down. The last line of your first message read
"Use of lyases in wine making suggests to me that a wine maker might be using enzymatic means to amplify aromatic components present in taste precursors."

If I read your last post correctly it seems as thought you think I am disagreeing with you. All of the enzymes I described are lysases. The type that the paper on SB are most likely one that breaks cystiene bonds or a form of beta-glucasidase. These would greatly enhance the varietal aromas of the wine, because they are more effective than yeast in breaking apart the aromaless precursors. So thankfully we are both correct.

Though I sure everyone is tired of me, with Alder's permission I would gladly go over the 4 diffrent types of water that are legally permitted in California winemaking.
Thanks All

Arthur wrote:
04.30.07 at 8:47 PM

Blair, You speak my language. Finally, I can shake the dust off my O-chem and Biochem memories... ;)

For the sake of this thread, please contact me via my web site as I want to hear more about watering back wine in CA.

Alder wrote:
04.30.07 at 9:36 PM

OK Blair, I'll bite. What kinds of water?

el jefe wrote:
05.01.07 at 12:08 AM

I dunno... I shudder to think what wine labels will look like if we have to list all of the additives we added - or worse, the additives we *might* have added. I have a feeling that the cork vs twistoff debate will be left in the dust when that occurs...

Blair wrote:
05.01.07 at 6:19 AM

Okay I checked the regs before I wrote this just in case. So here we go the 4 types of water that you can add to wine, that I can remember. They are all the same water, but you account for them diffrently in the final composition of the wine.

1. WAF- Water to Aid fermentation. This is water added before fermentation to the must or juice to lower the density (sugar content) to a level at which the yeast will have a a easier time completing the fermentation in a healthy and rapid fashion. This includes water used to wash equipment, so if you "wash" your red crusher to well when you bring in the grapes you still could be breaking the law. If the grapes are picked at above 23 brix then you can adjust to a minimum if 22 Brix. If the grapes are picked at 23 or less brix then you can reduce the density by no more than one degree brix.

2. Yeast Water - You may use 2 gallons of water per lb of yeast, not to exceed .5% of the total volume, to rehydrate for fermentation.

3. WTF - Water for Treatment- Many of the ingredients that you list above need to be dissolved in water or wine before they are added to the tank to aid in mixing. In my experiance the rate is usually 1-2 gallons per pound of additive. This type of water may not exceed 1.0% of the total volume.

4. Water for Reconsitution - Concentrated grape must is allowed to be dilluted down from the current density (65-70 brix) to the original density or 22, whichever is lower. Any number in between is okay to. In practice I've used this rule to dilute my concentrate down to 35-40 brix so that it is easier to measure, pump, wash in, and because the lab analysis is more reliable in this range.

I hope that helped to educate people a little bit. Anyone that has any questions or wants to correct me please feel free to drop me a line via email.

Jerry D. Murray wrote:
05.02.07 at 2:45 PM


there must of been a misunderstanding. I don't include anymore information on my label than anyone else does. Why should I put myself at a marketing disadvantage for being honest? You come to my cellar or see me at a tasting and i will tell you what I do and don't do and the whys and hows. I would say most of the winemakers out there that use these things have your best interest at heart; quality wine at a quality price. If I have a horrible growing season I would resort to whatever I would have to do. Remember I mentioned my first goal is to make good wine. Sense of place, reflection of the season and style all take a back seat to wine quality, we are a BUSSINESS. That said I work my ass off ( as well as the asses of many other people ) to prevent the need for 'heroic measures', so far I have been sucessful in doing so. I do however reserve the right to 'do what it takes'. I don't shun the above treatments because of some ideology. I simply find that in my case, they are not necassary. One must also understand that these things have many effects on a wine, some good and some bad. I avoid oversteering in my winemaking; you make a correction that may lead to needing another correction. It becomes a cylce.
Once the consumer buys a wine because of how it is made as opposed to how it tastes I will take a strict purist approach, until then...

nrc wrote:
05.08.07 at 10:15 AM

I feel much like Jerry; putting ingredients on a label doesn't work for me, but being able to explain what has been done, and the reasons why that was the best solution will help our customers know what is going on. This is best done during a personal, face to face discussion while tasting the wine. Labels are inflexible, and we have all witnessed the problems that arise when a little bit of information is only partially understood. All of the listed chems have specific maximum limits, and most of them are not classed as ingredients, as they will precipitate out of the wine completely. Most of them are used in processing our other foods, pharmaceuticals, and health care products.

Just like the problems with the 'New Organic' regulations, it is always best to know the people who are growing your food if at all possible, rather than relying on a label for reassurance. You can come to know and trust that they have the best of intentions and principles, and know that they are growing food for their family as well.

Water is widely added back in California. I try to do so in the vineyard by making water available to my vines late in the season. A grapevine will not naturally accumulate sugar above about 25.5 Brix, so if its water needs are balanced properly, it can maintain this sugar level plateau for 2-3 weeks (all the while continuing to develop flavor and ripen tannin,) before the rachis shuts down, and the berry starts to dehydrate, effectively becoming raisined. This is an absolute balancing act, and requires knowing your site and irrigation abilities intimately. In situations where the vines are dry farmed, or when some other trigger shuts down the rachis early, water (in the fermentor)might be required to reestablish the balance in the must, or it would be an absolute loss & failure. Grape farming is risky enough without asking the well-intentioned grower to accept a total loss by excluding water!

In much of Europe, (France, Germany) I suspect that the periodic rains throughout the season provide a similar balance of water availability in most years to preclude the need for water backs, either in the vineyard or winery. I wonder if the drier regions of Europe take a similar pragmatic approach to water usage (pre and post harvest) as California?

Jason Haas wrote:
05.11.07 at 1:02 PM

What an interesting collection of original article and comments. I wish I'd seen it earlier.

I wanted to jump in to say that yes, it's possible to make wine without most of the above list. If you have grapes in the right condition (i.e. clean, neither overripe nor underripe, no botrytis) it's possible to ferment without adding anything (with one notable exception) which I'll mention below). At Tablas Creek, we never add yeasts or yeast food, don't (typically) add acid in any of its forms, never water back, and don't fine unless we believe it's absolutely necessary. Filtration, which is a mechanical process, we use only occasionally. All this is a part of our efforts (along with our certified organic vineyard) to make wines naturally so that they reflect as clearly as possible the flavors of the varietals and the flavors of the place in which they're grown.

The notable exception is sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is listed as a preservative, which it is, but its power is that it's also a selective antibacterial agent. It works against fermentation or malolactic yeasts if it's in high enough quantities, but it works against vinegar yeasts in much lower concentrations. So, the magic of it as an additive is that if you're in the low-to-moderate range, it will keep your fermentation on the straight and narrow while providing protection against the most common form of spoilage.

SO2 also inhibits the action of oxidation on wine, which is particulary important with varietals prone to oxidation like Grenache or Viognier.

A particular frustration of ours at Tablas Creek has been that the United States Organic Regulations are written so that any addition of SO2 into wine (at whatever level) removes the possibility of it being an organic product. As I wrote in this blog post a while back, this has the unfortunate side-effect of keeping any winery concerned with making fine, ageable wines from also making organic wines, and therefore of discouraging organic farming in vineyards.

European regulations, as well as those of most of the rest of the world, allow sulfites up to a maximum concentration in organic wines... which is one reason that there are many more (and much better) organic wines being produced abroad.

bruxvoort wrote:
06.07.07 at 1:37 AM

Since all this talk concerns wine making regulations, I am wondering what is actually allowed and forbidden by law. For example adding sugar to wine is allowed by US law if I am not mistaken, but in California law it is not allowed. What piece of state regulation in California controls this? Or are there collective action attempts by the industry to impose some sort of regulation on themselves, mandated or voluntary (the latter one being rather difficult to enforce)?

Alder wrote:
06.07.07 at 9:26 AM


Actually EVERYTHING listed above is according to the law. You will note the annotation where it is indicated that Saccharose is forbidden by law in California.

I do not know what piece of state regulation controls regulations, but an e-mail to the ATB would probably give you the answer.

Individual winemakers impose voluntary "regulations" on themselves every day, but I don't know that there's anything consistently done industry wide. But then again, I'm not a winemaker.


foodtech wrote:
06.12.07 at 3:48 PM

Working several years in Central California in the food business, I was puzzled by the number of flavor houses from NY and Cincinnati that made unsolicited calls to my business. I asked, and learned, they really weren't there for me, but for the massive wine industry. Volumes of these flavors were said to be significant, although most flavors are effective in miniscule percentages (two decimal points). Apparently,'fruit concentrate' is an open door to create a variety of flavors from grape byproducts via undefined methods. I no longer question why the wine industry has fought mandatory ingredient statement labeling so hard.
Another interesting note is that the vast majority of California grapes are grown in the furnace of the Central Valley and then much of the juice is then tanker transported for bottling and/or blending elsewhere. 'Bottled in...' designation from a desirable region is a good clue.

07.31.07 at 1:42 AM

Winemaking, even as commercial companies try to change it, is still a product of the Old Age. It depends primarily on old methods and processes technology wants to change drastically.

abuy wrote:
08.25.07 at 4:16 AM

it was very nice to go through this blog. usually we cant find that much informative blogs like this. thanks.

pinot-ologist wrote:
09.14.09 at 1:05 PM

Lysozyme is an amalgam of enzyems used to lyse cells that may be living in your wine. If a wine has excessive bacterial populations, one can add lysozyme and it will destroy all of the living cells by breaking apart the cell walls and thus destroying the bacterium; They will no longer be able to affect your wine or reproduce.

wilson wrote:
04.04.11 at 8:17 AM

You know exactly what you're talking about. You have good insight on the matter.

Anonymous wrote:
09.12.11 at 9:13 PM

Has any of these rules changed over the years? Would be nice to get an update about what's allowed these days.

Steve wrote:
01.05.12 at 3:09 AM

Brilliant info and some excellent tips, many thanks I do enjoy reading this blog.

Rick Petch wrote:
08.03.12 at 6:33 AM

I have been asked by some of my clients to find out what ingredient is not allowed in winemaking in Europe but is allowed in the USA and Canada. Is there just one or are their many?

Dusty wrote:
09.25.12 at 12:36 AM

Wow, I didn't realize that California couldn't include water. That seems like it could really limit certain changes you could make. Also, I would never have though of egg-whites as something on this list. Weir.

10.19.14 at 5:16 PM

Wow, this piece of writing is good, my younger sister is analyzing such things, thus I am
going to tell her.

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10.20.14 at 3:42 PM

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