Vinography Images: Flame of Freshness

A burning sulfur cake glows blue in the bunghole of an old barrel at Fitapreta Vinhos in the Alentejo region of Portugal. Burning sulfur cakes (to produce sulfur dioxide) is an age-old winemaking practice used to ensure that used barrels are free of contamination from unwanted bacteria that can cause spoilage. While sulfur has become the symbolic bugbear of the natural wine movement, whose dogmatists see it as an evil of industrial winemaking, in reality, sulfur has been used to preserve wine for millennia.

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