At this point your wine has aged a bit and its time to start thinking about bottling. However, before we’re ready for that we need to take care of a few things. First is clarifying the wine.
No one wants to drink a cloudy or chunky-style wine. It looks bad and even if it tastes great people’s first impression will be that your wine is off somehow. Why else would it look like that (they might think)?
What Makes Wine Cloudy?
A cloudy wine has suspended particles in it due to the chemical reactions that took place during fermentation. Like magnets the suspended particles have either a positive or negative charge. Having too many particles of a single charge (all positive for example) prevents them from settling down at the bottom as they repel each other and remain floating around.
If left alone most wines will eventually clear up through racking. Also, over time the positive particles find negative particles, fall in love, and make a home for themselves on the bottom of the carboy.
There are times though when a wine just won’t clarify on its own. At this point you’ll need to clarify (or fine) your wine with a fining agent of some kind.
Clarifying Your Wine
In order to get all those suspended particles out of your wine and on the bottom you’ll need to add a chemical that can bond with the particles making them neutral in charge so they become heavy enough to settle down. There are many methods to choose from.
Over the past millenia there have been many different fining agents used to clarify a wine. To name a few of the more odd ones: bull’s blood, isinglass (from fish bladders), and clay. How nasty does that sound?!?
Today there are chemicals available so you can avoid having to draw blood from your bull. Namely bentonite and gelatin.
Aside from chemicals you can clarify your wine through filtration as well. It takes a special filter that is fine enough to catch stray yeast cells and other microbial organisms. The drawback to this method is that the filter can remove precious flavor nuances and that’s the last thing we want.
After a lot of research I found that most of the top quality wine makers use egg whites to fine their wine. Pros including Robert Mondavi use this method as one of the corner stones of making his white wines. If it’s good enough for Mondavi it’ll probably do for us too.
The recipe is simple, using the egg whites, of course, and some salt. Once the recipe has been concocted you merely mix it well into your wine and give it some time. The egg whites bond with the tiny particles, making them heavy enough to sink to the bottom.
As soon as your wine is clear you need to rack it off of the settled particles. I cannot stress enough how careful you need to be during this racking. The particles that were so hard to settle out are quite easily stirred back up again. Should this happen you’ll likely need to repeat the clarification step.
Click here to go back to the wine making process.3
Photo by: Isabel Bloedwater