By Rick Riozza
It’s hard to believe that two years have passed since this column wrote about and alerted our readers to the season’s new wine gadget. And as wine gadgets go—Üllo is still up there with the best of them; selling well to both the vino cognoscenti & wine newbies, now, with even a larger portfolio of aerators, carafes, and decanters for all to consider.
What’s Up Üllo!
As I’ve written previously, fortunately I do not have any sensitivity or bad reaction to sulfites in wine, but in the U.S., more than 3 million people or so do suffer degrees of and even major reactions, headaches, and problems when encountering sulfites in wine. Some folks have such serious consequences that they have to give up on enjoying wine completely.
More and more wine buyers are realizing that the “technology” is here, with Üllo sharing the good news that they’re “bringing you back to good wine times!” Their website at ullowine.com, among other statements, offers, “Üllo is a Chicago startup with a simple mission to bring wine back to its natural state. The Üllo Wine Purifier is a revolutionary wine purifier that restores the natural taste of wine with Selective Sulfite Capture™ filter technology.” It lists for around $80 with additional filters sold separately.
With all the good discussion about organic wines taking place, the subject of “sulfites” comes up all the time! The more one gets into appreciating wine and learning the wine making progress, the more one learns about naturally forming sulfites and the usual process of particularly adding sulfites to keep the wines “fresh” and “preserved”.
As your friendly neighborhood wine steward, I often field inquiries as to sulfates, sulfides, and sulfites. Sometimes I’ll even hear things called “sulfurs” to which I reply, “oh—you mean “selfies?” (it’s funnier at the time). Anyway, let’s remember that sulfates are salts of sulfuric acid—they’re out! No one consumes sulfates. But, as mentioned, sulfites and sulfides do work in preserving foodstuff.
And without getting too nerdy, we all know that alcohol fermentation is carried out by yeasts; but in many cases, other micro-organisms compete for the sugar, thus altering a bit of the fermentation. To eliminate these organisms, the best thing to do is to use absolute sterile barrels and bottles—which is not always possible. So, wineries use sulfites as a preservative to interrupt the biological activity of these unwanted germs.
There are really very few wines that are made without some use of sulfites; Most winemakers add more sulfites to help prevent spoilage; it’s because wine is prone to oxidation and the development of aldehyde off-odors. Sulfites, particularly for white wines, are important for freshness; without sulfites, vino has a way shorter shelf life and needs to be kept in perfect storage conditions. Given that a winemaker has very little control over the wine’s storage conditions from the time the wine leaves the winery until it is consumed, no wonder sulfites are so widely used to help guarantee that the bottle of wine you open will be fresh and clean, as the winemaker intended. “Organic wines” are made without additional sulfites.
The Üllo company contends that once your favorite bottle of wine is opened, you have no need for any sulfites remaining in the wine. And the Üllo purifier does just that: “Proprietary polymer technology filters away free sulfites and their bitter taste, while allowing other compounds in wine to flow through unaffected; the sulfites are reduced to a more naturally occurring level for most wines.”
For those with sulfite allergies, noticing and sensing sulfite absence in the wine they’re drinking is evident; and so, Üllo becomes these folk’s best wine accoutrement company. The wine heavens have opened up again—let the good times roll! And for those of us without allergies, what we do notice is an improved change of taste.
I personally tested the Üllo at the wine bar with customers and found the wine, both a white and a red, tasted a touch different, a bit fruitier and a nod tastier! For sure—this was a limited group with subjective tastes and unscientific comments, but six out of seven found a positive distinction.
Filters, as one would expect, are required for the Üllo purifier. As their website explains, “The filter is made from a food-grade, macroporous acrylic polymer. When activated, it captures free sulfites in wine by a reaction called covalent attachment. The beauty of this chemistry is that the reaction is highly selective for the most reactive components of wine, the sulfites, and no unintended “products” are introduced into the wine during purification.’
One filter is utilized per bottle. However, Üllo does encourage re-using the filters. “We know it’s not always practical to finish a bottle of wine in one evening. We also know that filters are precious commodities! We have found that, when stored properly, a partially used filter can be re-used the next day on the same bottle of wine, with little loss of efficacy. Rinsing and refrigerating the filter can help to maintain its reactivity.
And has it already been mentioned that this purifier also acts as an aerator, “as it just lets the wine go on a speed date with oxygen, which can help bring out the wine’s aromas.” I’ve got to admit that this purifier/aerator is quite sleek in design and rather eye-catching. My little grandson keeps finding the device around my kitchen and loves playing with it as a space station or some wild hypnotic charm.
As a sales point, be it known that the purifier/aerator is compatible with a wide type of containers, stemware, decanters, and carafes. However, as mentioned at the beginning of this piece, the Üllo Purifying System is now out with a glassware line-up just in time for holiday gifting among your wine friends. Check it out! ullowine.com/collections/wine-purifier-collection. Cheers!