Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fining Wine

Wine making is an important California industry. It's even becoming more important in our own local area. And some of us make wine as a hobby. So when I saw a post recently on the Internet titled something like “Things Wine Makers Don't Want You To Know” I had to check it out. Now I can't answer to techniques for any particular wine maker, but there was one topic mentioned that seemed worth reading more about. And that was the fining of wine.

Now wine fining isn't some magic process for making your wine fine. Instead it's a collection of processes that make the wine clear. Now most of us that happen to drink wine prefer our wines to be clear. I know from experience that a cloudy wine isn't all that pleasant. (It took me some years before I'd try Oklahoma wines again after a bottle of an Oklahoma “brown”.) Thankfully the small batches of wine I've made have cleared up on their own. But if you have a batch that doesn't there are substances that can be added that can clear up the wine.

Now this being something wine makers don't want you to know, you know that there's something odd about the process. All you need for wine fining is something that's going to make the particles clouding the wine to settle out. One possibility is to use certain minerals, like clay. You mix them in, the particles of the clay stick to the other particles in the wine and they are heavy enough to settle out.

But not everything that can be found clouding up wine is something the mineral particles will stick to. So other things are used. And several are animal based products. For example: egg whites, casein, gelatin, and isinglass. What is isinglass? Well that is made from the swim bladders of fish. Years ago, before cheap gelatin was available it was used in confections and desserts. But now it is mostly used as a fining agent for wine. And beer. Isinglass is known to be used bu Guinness. So you beer drinkers have the same mystery ingredients possibly lurking in your mugs and bottles.

And if you look at the label of your wine and beer bottles (or cans). You won't see lists of ingredients. That's not required for alcoholic beverages. Yet there isn't a measurable amount of these fining agents left in the wine or beer, but some people might want to know. For example, one fining agent is made from shells of crustaceans like shrimp and crabs. People with allergies to such things might want to pick other wines.

 But how's a person to know since it doesn't have to be labeled? Well, there's always do it yourself. Anyone know where I can get some grapes?

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