what do they put in wine to preserve it

What Do They Put in Wine to Preserve It?

Wine is a delicate beverage that requires careful handling and preservation to maintain its quality and taste. Winemakers utilize different techniques and substances to help preserve wine and extend its shelf life. In this article, we’ll explore the various methods and substances that are commonly used in wine preservation.

Key Takeaways:

  • Wine preservation techniques are used to maintain the freshness and flavor of wine.
  • Winemakers use different methods and substances to preserve wine, including natural and chemical preservatives.
  • Factors like storage conditions and temperature play a crucial role in wine preservation.

Understanding Wine Preservation Techniques

Wine preservation is an important aspect of winemaking to maintain the quality and flavor of the wine for as long as possible. Winemakers use a variety of techniques to preserve wine, from additives and stabilizers to natural aging and storage methods.

One of the most common wine preservation techniques is the use of wine preservatives and stabilizers. These substances help prevent spoilage, maintain color and flavor, and extend the wine’s shelf life. Some common preservatives include sulfites, which are naturally present in wine but are also added in small amounts to some wines as a preservative. Other stabilizers include citric acid, ascorbic acid, and sorbic acid, which help prevent the growth of bacteria and yeast.

While sulfites are a necessary component of wine preservation, they can also cause allergic reactions in some people. The FDA requires winemakers to include a warning label on all wine bottles that contain more than 10 parts per million of sulfites.

Natural wine preservation techniques include proper bottling, corking, and storage conditions. Aging wine in oak barrels or other containers can also help improve the quality and flavor of wine over time. Controlling the temperature, humidity, and light exposure in a wine cellar or storage area is also critical to preserving the wine’s quality.

Chemical preservatives, such as potassium metabisulfite, can also be used in wine preservation. However, these preservatives are not as common and are generally used in small amounts to prevent spoilage.

Overall, understanding wine preservation techniques is crucial to maintaining the quality and flavor of wine. Whether you use natural aging and storage methods or rely on preservatives and stabilizers, proper preservation is key to enjoying a great-tasting glass of wine.

Common Additives for Wine Preservation

Winemakers use various additives to preserve the color, taste, and aroma of wine. The addition of these substances ensures that the wine stays fresh for longer periods and does not spoil easily.

One common additive used in wine preservation is antioxidants. These substances help prevent oxidation, which can negatively impact the taste and color of the wine. Antioxidants such as ascorbic acid and sulfur dioxide are added during the winemaking process to prevent oxidation and maintain the quality of the wine.

Another important additive in wine preservation is sulfur dioxide, which is used as a preservative and stabilizer. Sulfur dioxide is added to wine to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi that can spoil the wine. It also helps to preserve the color and flavor of the wine. Sulfur dioxide is one of the most common additives used in winemaking and is regulated by government agencies to ensure safe consumption for individuals with sulfite sensitivities.

Other additives used in wine preservation include bentonite, which is used to clarify the wine, and tannins, which help to preserve the wine’s flavor and structure. Sugar is also sometimes added to wine during fermentation to boost alcohol content and sweetness.

Overall, the use of additives in wine preservation is important to maintain the quality and freshness of the wine. The addition of antioxidants, sulfur dioxide, and other substances help to prevent spoilage and preserve the wine’s color, taste, and aroma.

Natural Wine Preservation Methods

When it comes to wine preservation, there are a variety of natural techniques that can be used to maintain the quality of the wine. These methods are often preferred by wine enthusiasts who prioritize a more organic approach to winemaking. Here are some of the most common natural wine preservation methods:

  1. Aging: One of the most traditional and effective methods of wine preservation is aging the wine in oak barrels or bottles, which allows the wine to slowly develop and deepen in flavor over time while protecting it from external factors that can affect its quality.
  2. Proper bottling: The way wine is bottled can also significantly impact its preservation. For example, wines that are corked or sealed with a screw-cap should be stored upright to prevent the cork from drying out or the cap from corroding, respectively.
  3. Storage conditions: Finally, the conditions in which wine is stored can greatly influence its preservation. Wine should be kept in a cool, dark place with a consistent temperature and humidity level. Excessive heat or light exposure can cause wine to spoil, while fluctuations in temperature or humidity can oxidize the wine and impact its flavor.

By utilizing these natural wine preservation methods, you can help ensure that your wine stays fresh and flavorful for as long as possible.

Chemical Preservatives in Wine

Chemical preservatives are sometimes added to wine to help maintain its quality and reduce the risk of spoilage. These preservatives can take many forms, including sulfur dioxide, sorbic acid, and potassium sorbate.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is the most common chemical preservative used in winemaking. It is added to wine to inhibit the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms that can spoil the wine. Sulfites are also naturally produced during fermentation, but many winemakers add extra SO2 to ensure the wine stays fresh.

However, the use of sulfites is controversial, as they can cause adverse reactions in some individuals, particularly those with asthma. The United States requires all wines containing more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfites to be labeled as such.

Sorbic acid and potassium sorbate are other chemical preservatives that are sometimes used in wine. They are added to inhibit the growth of yeast and bacteria that may cause spoilage. However, these preservatives can also affect the taste of the wine, giving it a slightly chemical or artificial flavor.

It’s worth noting that while some natural winemakers eschew the use of chemical preservatives altogether, most conventional winemakers use at least some level of these additives to ensure their wine stays fresh and consistent.

The Role of Sulfites in Wine Preservation

When it comes to wine preservation, sulfites are an important tool in a winemaker’s arsenal. Sulfites, also known as sulfur dioxide, are chemicals that occur naturally in wine and are often added during the winemaking process. They play a crucial role in preserving wine by preventing spoilage, oxidation, and unwanted bacterial growth.

Sulfites are known to have antioxidant and anti-microbial properties, which helps to maintain the freshness and quality of the wine. They also act as a preservative by slowing down the oxidation process that can lead to spoilage.

While sulfites are an essential part of wine preservation, they can also be a source of concern for some wine drinkers. Sulfite sensitivities can cause adverse reactions such as headaches, nausea, and breathing difficulties in some individuals. However, sulfite levels in wine are closely monitored and regulated by government agencies to ensure that they do not pose a risk to public health.

In the United States, wine labels must include a warning if the sulfite levels in the wine exceed 10 parts per million (ppm). Some winemakers have also begun to experiment with sulfite-free wines, but these can be challenging to produce and often have a shorter shelf life.

Overall, sulfites play an essential role in wine preservation and have helped to ensure that we can enjoy quality wine for generations. However, it’s important to be aware of their potential effects and to be mindful of sulfite levels in the wine you consume.

Antioxidants and Wine Preservation

Antioxidants are a common additive in wine preservation, as they help prevent oxidation by binding to free radicals and delaying the breakdown of the wine’s color, taste, and aroma. This is particularly important in red wines, which have a higher level of tannins and are more susceptible to oxidation.

One of the most common antioxidants used in wine production is ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C, which is added to the grapes during crushing to prevent oxidation during fermentation. Another popular antioxidant is sulfur dioxide, which is used as a preservative in both winemaking and other food industries.

It’s worth noting that some people may have a sensitivity to sulfites, which can cause allergic reactions like headaches, rashes, or breathing difficulties. However, the amount of sulfites used in wine production is tightly regulated by government agencies, and most people do not experience adverse effects from consuming them.

Other antioxidants used in wine preservation include vitamin E and polyphenols, which are naturally occurring compounds found in the skins and seeds of grapes. However, some studies have suggested that excessive use of antioxidant additives may negatively impact the flavor and aroma of the wine.

Wine Preservation and Storage

Proper storage is crucial to maintaining the quality of your wine and ensuring its longevity. Here are some guidelines and tips to keep in mind:

  • Temperature: Wine should be stored between 55-65°F, with minimal fluctuations in temperature. Keep it away from heat sources like ovens or direct sunlight.
  • Humidity: The ideal humidity for wine storage is around 60-70%. Too little humidity can cause corks to dry out, while too much can lead to mold growth.
  • Light Exposure: Wine should be stored in a dark environment, away from UV rays which can damage the wine.
  • Position: Store wine bottles on their sides to keep the corks moist and to prevent them from drying out and shrinking, which can allow air to enter the bottle.
  • Away from Odors: Wine can absorb odors from its surroundings, so make sure to keep it away from strong-smelling substances like cleaning chemicals or spices.

Keeping these factors in mind will help ensure your wine is preserved at its best quality for as long as possible.

Long-Term Wine Preservation

If you’re interested in aging wine for long-term preservation, there are several techniques you can employ to ensure that your wine maintains its quality and flavor over time. One of the most common methods is cellar aging, which involves storing bottles of wine in a cool, dark, and humidity-controlled environment.

For optimal results, you should aim to store your wine between 50-55°F with a humidity level of around 70%. This range will help prevent the wine from deteriorating due to heat or dryness, which can negatively affect the wine’s taste and aroma.

In addition to proper storage, you can also invest in specialized wine preservation systems, such as wine coolers and refrigeration units, to ensure that your wine is stored at the right temperature and humidity level. Some of these systems use inert gases to create a barrier between the wine and the air, thereby preventing oxidation and maintaining the wine’s freshness.

Another technique you can use for long-term preservation is to re-cork the wine regularly, which helps to prevent air from entering the bottle and causing oxidation. This technique is particularly effective for older wines, which are more susceptible to oxidation and spoilage.

Overall, when it comes to long-term wine preservation, it’s important to be mindful of the storage conditions, invest in specialized preservation systems, and employ techniques like cellar aging and regular re-corking to ensure that your wine stays fresh and flavorful for years to come.

The Future of Wine Preservation

As technology advances, we can expect new and innovative wine preservation techniques to emerge. One such technology that is currently gaining popularity is the use of inert gases, such as argon or nitrogen, to displace oxygen and prevent oxidation of the wine. This method is especially useful for preserving wine in open bottles or wine dispensing systems.

Another emerging trend is the use of ultraviolet light to sanitize wine bottles and prevent spoilage. This technology is still in the early stages of development, but has the potential to significantly reduce the need for other preservatives and stabilizers in wine.

Additionally, winemakers are experimenting with new types of packaging, such as aluminum cans and plastic bottles, which can help preserve the wine’s quality and freshness over time.

Overall, the future of wine preservation is looking bright, with cutting-edge technologies and techniques that promise to maintain the quality and flavor of our favorite wines for years to come.


Now that you understand the various methods and substances used to preserve wine, you can make informed decisions about the wines you purchase, drink, and store. It is important to remember that while some chemical preservatives are used in wine, there are also natural and organic methods that can maintain wine freshness and flavor without additives. Proper storage, temperature, and light exposure are crucial to preserving wines for the long-term. And with emerging technologies and trends, the future of wine preservation looks promising.

Whether you are a casual wine-drinker or a serious collector, understanding wine preservation techniques is essential. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can ensure that your wines stay fresh, flavorful, and enjoyable for years to come. Cheers to raising a glass of delicious and well-preserved wine!


Q: What do they put in wine to preserve it?

A: Wine is preserved using a variety of methods and substances, including preservatives, stabilizers, antioxidants, and natural preservation techniques.

Q: What are some common additives for wine preservation?

A: Common additives for wine preservation include antioxidants, which help maintain the quality of the wine and prevent oxidation.

Q: Are there any chemical preservatives used in wine?

A: Yes, some wines may contain chemical preservatives, which play a role in preserving the wine’s freshness and preventing spoilage.

Q: What is the role of sulfites in wine preservation?

A: Sulfites are used in wine preservation to inhibit the growth of bacteria and yeasts, maintaining the wine’s stability and extending its shelf life.

Q: How can I properly store wine for preservation?

A: Proper wine storage involves maintaining the right temperature, humidity, and protecting the wine from excessive light exposure.

Q: How can I preserve wine for the long term?

A: Long-term wine preservation techniques include cellar aging, specialized preservation systems, and other methods to ensure the quality of aged wines.

Q: What does the future hold for wine preservation?

A: The future of wine preservation may see advancements in technology and innovative techniques that could revolutionize how we preserve and enjoy wine.

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