Now you probably wonder what old Jack Sparrow had to do with this…Interestingly enough, Stinkpots, favorite weapons of pirates, were malodorous concoctions made from saltpeter, limestone, asafetida (a vile-smelling gum resin), and decayed fish that were packed into earthenware jugs, ignited, and hurled onto an enemy ship…

Most of us had to manage a stinkpot brewing in our cellar at some stage of our lives, whether it was a result of a power failure (load sharing for South African winemakers), too little nitrogen, or just a general struggling yeast population. And then of course, if the H2S turns into mercaptans… it will just about kill any odorous component remotely smelling of fruit.

H2S contains sulfur in its most reduced form. Mercaptans are common organic compounds. When aerated, mercaptans can be oxidized to disulfides, which slightly change their sensory threshold and character. The oxidized forms are usually less of a stinkpot. These reductive components have unpleasant odor descriptors, and these can increase post-fermentation. Some of these, such as H2S and mercaptans, react with copper and can be removed by copper additions, usually in the form of cupric sulfate. In some wineries additions of cupric sulfate is a standard procedure, sometimes with an addition of inactivated carbon. All of us are aware of course that such an addition, particularly on Sauvignons, can reduce the concentration of aromatic thiols with up to 20%… I personally believe a slight element of H2S might actually contribute to the complexity of Sauvignon blanc.

But what to do? Well, the magic potion arrived in the form of inactivated yeasts impregnated with copper – Reduless®. It can be suspended with water and added to the tank directly after primary fermentation. The wine is racked off the lees after 72 hours. No residues, no potential risk of copper casse forming, but only a fresh smelling, wonderful wine. It has been developed by Lallemand for red and white wines to reduce H2S, DMS, DES and other stinkpot related off-flavors in wine.

Bertus Fourie is a winemaker, turned Enology lecturer and creator of the Barista coffee Pinotage.