Quick and easy new method to analyse free hydrogen sulphide in wines

by | Oct 27, 2021 | South Africa Wine Scan



Hydrogen sulfide (H2S, “rotten egg” aroma) concerns winemakers due to its contribution to sulfur-like off-aromas (SLOs). However, there are a lack of inexpensive, convenient methods for quantitation of H2S in wines at or below its reported odor threshold. The use of selective, colorimetric gas detection tubes (GDT) for measurement of H2S during fermentation has been previously described, but this approach has not been adapted and validated for finished wines. We developed and validated protocols for rapid, inexpensive analysis of H2S using GDTs and Aeration-Oxidation (A-O) glassware commonly available in wineries. Video demonstration of the approaches is also provided (Supplemental Video 1).


Key Findings:

  • Two approaches were validated for GDT-based quantitation of H2S in wine. In the first approach, H2S was sparged from the sample with N2 gas, analogous to Monier-Williams analyses of SO2. In the second approach, H2S was sparged by a vacuum-generated air stream, analogous to A-O analyses of SO2.

  • Both approaches require <15 min/sample and achieve excellent linearity. The calibration curve for the N2 Method was identical to the curve predicted from the manufacturer’s markings. The Aspiration Method was less sensitive, likely because of oxidative losses. However, the Aspiration Method was simpler to set up, operate, and adapt to higher concentration samples.

  • The limits of detection were 12-13 ng H2S for the methods, or ~0.2 μg/L using a 60 mL sample. The mean coefficients of variance (%CV) were <5% for both approaches.

  • Using the new method, we observed that commercially purchased wines stored in aluminum cans have significantly higher H2S than commercial wines in glass packaging.


The novel methods can be used for routine H2S analysis in wineries without the need for significant investment in new equipment. In addition to cost savings, the ability to test H2S onsite rather than send samples to an external lab decreases the risk of H2S losses through oxidation or volatilization. These new analytical tools can be used for benchmarking, diagnosing faulty wines, or evaluating the effects of winemaking parameters, such as yeast selection, remediation treatments, and packaging options on H2S.


Rachel B. Allison, Austin Montgomery, Gavin L. Sacks.  Analysis of free hydrogen sulfide in wines using gas detection tubes. Catalyst: Discovery into Practice September 2021 catalyst.2021.21003; published ahead of print September 09, 2021; DOI: 10.5344/catalyst.2021.21003

This summary has been reproduced in its original form as permitted by the Creative Commons license of Catalyst.

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