This piece originally appeared on Decanter.com.
I have two bottles here in front of me. Both are Sauvignon Blanc 2012s made by Sepp Muster, a biodynamic grower in Austria’s southern Styria region, both sourced from his Opok vineyard. They taste very different: the first is extraordinarily alive, with concentrated citrus fruit and beguiling complexity; the second feels more muted, somehow more lemonade than lemon.
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The difference between the two is a mere 10mg of sulfur dioxide (SO2)—or "sulphur dioxide"—added after racking the second bottling. Muster isn’t just trying to prove a point—he’s one of a small but growing niche of winemakers seeking to reduce the intervention and additives used in wine production to close to zero. The spurning of SO2, typically used to prevent oxidation and keep unwanted bacteria at bay, is the final frontier in this quest. It’s regarded as lunacy by most conventional producers, and worshipped like the holy grail in natural wine circles. Why is opinion so polarised around this topic?