Sulphite is your powdery white friend, suppressing and preventing the growth of yeast, bacteria and spoilage organisms, as well as preventing oxidation of your wine during storage and ageing. One of the things that makes it so immensely useful is its ability to sanitize on contact: with only a quick rinse or spray, surfaces are sanitary enough to be used in winemaking, a great convenience for us and our consumers.
But there are a couple of things we need to keep in mind when using sulphite:
Make fresh solutions frequently. While sulphite solutions last a month or so in a tightly sealed bottle, there’s no good way to easily tell when the solution loses effectiveness. It’s cheap, so don’t re-use it forever.
Don’t store plastic or stainless steel equipment soaking in sulphite for extended periods: The HDPE plastic used in carboys, spoons and the vinyl used in racking canes and hoses will eventually succumb to sulphite’s acidic character, turning opaque and getting brittle and certain types of stainless steel can become pitted with long exposure. The best way to use sulphite is to wash your equipment with an appropriate cleaner (Aspetox), rinse away the solution and then treat it with sulphite. Allow it to drip-dry and put away dry. Before you use it again, a quick suphiting will get you on your way, and your equipment will last much longer.
When sulphiting the inside of bottles it isn’t necessary to rinse the sulphite solution away with water. After draining upside down for as little as five seconds the amount of sulphite retained in the bottle will only increase the free sulphite content of the added wine by a little over 1 part per million. You can rinse if you want to, but it won’t make any difference and takes extra time.
People have been successfully using sulphite in winemaking for over 400 years, and with a little attention we can keep our equipment ship-shape and in good condition for years. Article from Tim Vandergrift, Technical Services Manager, Winexpert Ltd