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Wine Fining

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Fining Agents

Bentonite:

Gelatin:

Chitosen

Sparkolloid

Keiselsol

Egg Whites

Isinglass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filtered wine

There is much controversy surrounding the subject of fining wines. In general most wines will clear of their own accord if given time to age properly in bulk form. But then there is a clear wine and then there is a CLEAR wine. We know that most commercial wineries filter their wines to give a brilliance other wise not obtainable. Clarity in a wine can come if different degrees, that is a wine can be considered clear but when really scrutinized it may be found that it still has miniscule suspended particles in it. The light at which the wine is examined in can often reveal such things. For the home winemaker fining can and is your friend. Fining a wine can reduce harsh tannins, help settle out dead yeast cells, and remove several kinds of hazes that other wise would plague your wine right into the bottle.  Granted, as with anything else you put into your wine, you can over do a fining agent, or use the wrong compound and cause irreversible  damage to a wine. Over fining a wine can strip it of body, color, and in some cases flavor. 

The experienced winemaker will always know the condition of his/her  wine, the levels of chemical used, what imbalances exist, and will have a general idea of where he/she wants to go with the wine. The sad truth is that a lot of times problems are detected to late, thus correction becomes more difficult. It is not often that fining a wine does any harm, and the common home winemaker should keep a variety of finings on hand. When and how to use a fining agent will be your biggest decision in using them. I will discuss here the most common fining agents their uses, and effectiveness  in home winemaking. Most all wine kits now come with a fining agent, this is because they are designed to be finished faster thus allowing you to clear the wine faster that if you let it clear naturally. A general guide line and one that I go by, is to let your reds and some of your rose's settle out on their own, but fine your white wines. I like for the my whites to be cleared in their first month of aging, and then to let the rest of bulk aging to be complete as a completely clarified wine. By doing this I always know that if the wine needs to settle out anymore over the next couple of months, it will do so in bulk and I will see the ultra fine layer of FINAL settlement in the bottom of the bulk container. And since its a white wine, I do not want any settlement in the bottle. Red wines, are more forgiving and a slight settlement is less noticeable.

Gravity alone removes most of the solids that make new wine cloudy to muddy.  As the wine clarifies itself (in the romantic old term, it "falls bright"), the clear portion is racked-transferred from the tank or cask it has been in to a clean one.  This process may be repeated several times over the six months to three years a wine stays in the cellar.

Fining helps remove the lightest particles-ones that do not respond to gravity in proper time.  Of the several fining agents in wine use, the most common are sparkolloid, and a fine clay called bentonite.  Both are left behind in the bottom of the carboy or barrel when the wine is racked.


Bentonite: (I use this for all my white wines)

 Bentonite is mined in Wyoming from naturally perfect veins of this clay-like substance. Bentonite is used as a fining agent to clarify  by removing colloidal material from solution. Due to the large amount of deposit left behind, it should be used toward the end of secondary fermentation, then racked one or more times before bottling. Bentonite selectively removes undesirable compounds such as phenols, haze causing proteins, and tannins (The negatively charged plates in this clay-like compound draw out the positively charged proteins and color altering tannin complexes through adsorption and coagulation). Bentonite is actually used more in the wine and juice industries, and often in conjunction with gelatin (to remove excess tannins) or kieselsol. Bentonite is a very effective clarifier for home winemakers, particularly in its ability to remove select, haze causing proteins. 

Industry identifies maximum effectiveness of Bentonite by testing a 5% (5g/100ml) solution, adding it at to the brewers wort or vintners must, then incubated at 100° F for 24 hours to check for wort turbidity. A chart is then used to determine the most effective concentration of Bentonite to use (somewhere between .1 and .5 parts-per-thousand). 

Usage: Dissolve 2 -3 teaspoons of bentonite in 1/2 to 1 cup of VERY hot water. Stir this solution to get as much of the clay material dissolved as possible. Let this solution sit for 30 minuets or so, stir again and then stir well into wine.

 Bentonite will work quickly, within 24 hours in most cases but needs 2 or 3 days to compact. There are times when it will take a week or so for maximum clarity to be achieved. Wine can be left on the bentonite lee's for up to 3 weeks before racking.

Gelatin:

One of the original home brewers clarifiers, gelatin is a positively charged protein, derived form pork or beef skins and bones. While not overwhelming when used alone, gelatin reduces polyphenolic compounds (astringent or bitter husk and hop tannins) by attracting these negatively charged compounds, along with yeast cells, drawing them to the bottom of the bottle or fermentor. To remove positively charged haze causing proteins, commercial vintners often use gelatin in conjunction with negatively charged silicon dioxide. Together they form a dense coagulum, resulting in rapid clarification.

Usage:

A 1.5% solution (1.5g in 98.5g water, or 1 tsp. gelatin in 6 oz. water). Add gelatin to room temperature water and stir thoroughly so as to allow all gelatin granules to "bloom" for a few minutes. Heat gently while stirring to ensure that the gelatin is completely dissolved until the water temperature reaches 140° F. Let cool to room temperature and add at racking or bottling, allowing 3 to 6 days for proper clarification. Note: as previously mentioned, it is not uncommon in industry for some clarifiers to be used in conjunction with others, for instance, Bentonite can be used prior to gelatin fining to remove excess, haze causing proteins

Chitosan:

Derived from the shells of shell fish. also works as a protein that attracts the opposite charged matter and settles out with it. Good for most all white wines. Some wine kits are now including this with their kits. More of a general purpose fining for suspended matter. May not work on a pectin type haze.

Usage:

This is usually pre packaged in a pouch in which you add the entire pouch. other wise I would say to add about 2 ounces to 5 gallons of wine, stir in well and let settle for 2 weeks.

Sparkolloid:

Used mostly by wineries, Sparkolloid is a polysaccharide mixed in a diatomaceous earth carrier. Sparkolloid has a strong positive charge making it a powerful clarifier, dropping out yeast cells and tannin complex materials.

Sparkolloid is a natural albuminous protein extracted from kelp and sold as a very fine powder. While Sparkolloid may be used any time after fermentation has been established, I find it is best used when fermentation is complete and you are ready to set the wine aside to settle. 

Usage:

The directions often specify boiling approximately 10 ml in 100 ml of water to clear 5 gallons. I always boil it in wine taken from the carboy, as it dissolves better. Once boiled pour it directly back into the carboy. Most often used for red wine. CAUTION: If your carboy is made of glass pour this and all hot liquids through a funnel being careful not to let the liquids come in contact with the bottle neck, for fear of cracking the carboy. Preferred by many wineries because it doesn't strip wine of subtle flavors as some clarifiers can. Because it does not remove haze causing proteins it is often used in conjunction with Bentonite. Mead makers take note, Sparkolloid is probably the single best product I am aware of for rapid and thorough clarification of meads.

Kieselsol:

Kieselsol, also known as Silica gel is a potent haze clarifier Modern manufacturing has made it possible to produce a "hydrous silica gel" with pore sizes of very tight specification. This translates into a product made to adsorb only those proteins responsible for chill haze formation, leaving foam retention and mouthfeel unaltered. Silica gel is also convenient to use as it usually comes in a liquid form. Preferred by experienced winemakers, it's usually used in tandem with gelatin and is most useful for white wine. Follow directions and measure carefully as very little is required. 

Usage:

The dosage is 1 millilitre per gram of gelatine. This fining aids in pulling proteins out of suspension. Rack the wine several weeks after using this material.

Egg Whites:

Egg whites are an old fashioned fining agent. Commonly used much like a gelatin fining agent. Red wines that are over tannic, will often benefit from egg white fining. I have used this before to soften a wine, that was over harsh from tannin materials. It did help to smooth out the wine. Usually settles out in a week or so.

Usage:

One egg white separated from the yolk, beaten and creamed as good as possible. add to 5 gallon carboy and stir in real well.. 

Isinglass:

Produced from sturgeon swim bladders, isinglass is sold either as a fine white powder or as dry hard fragments. It is protein, extracted from the bladders of these fish, which is useful for red wines. While it is hard to use, it is always included in 28-day kits, possibly because it is hard to damage a wine with this fining. This product is easier to use when bought as a prepared liquid called “super-clear”.

Usage:

I have never used this fining, so use according to manufacturers specifications

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