Abstract The effect of different sulphur dioxide concentrations on culturability and viability of seven strains of Brettanomyces bruxellensis was tested in a synthetic wine medium (SWM) and a different response to molecular SO 2 among strains was detected. Sulphur dioxide induced a viable but non culturable (VBNC) state in all the strains. The greater percentage of VBNC cells were identified for five strains at molecular SO 2 concentrations of 0.2 mg/L and for two strains at the concentration of 0.4 mg/L. Vinyl phenols were detected in media containing VBNC or not viable B. bruxellensis, suggesting that its spoilage metabolism could be maintained during wine storage. Overall, this study indicates that SO 2 is a chemical stressor inducing VBNC state in B. bruxellensis grown in synthetic wine medium . Further studies are needed to evaluate the effects of SO 2 on the metabolism of this yeast in wine spoilage.