This week’s Wine Word of the Week is “fining” and was suggested to us by our fabulous Facebook fan, Joan Axthelm – thanks for the suggestion, Joan!
Fining is a winemaking technique which removes microscopic particles and chemicals from a wine which can adversely affect its color, aroma and/or flavor. Fining agents such as bentonite, egg whites and gelatin are added to wine and act like a magnet, bonding with the undesirable components, which can include excessive tannins, microscopic particulate matter and/or other pesky chemicals. Once bonded, they precipitate out of solution and are removed, leaving the wine more chemically stable and less likely to spoil over time.
Fining is often used in the same sentence as “filtration,” as the two often go hand in hand. Whereas fining binds to particles or chemicals in order to remove them, filtration involves passing the wine through a physical filter, filtering out anything larger than the pores of the barrier. Filtration removes harmful compounds including yeast (i.e Brettanomyces) and/or bacteria (i.e. malolactic bacteria) through filtration mediums including cellulose fiber pads, diatomaceous earth, and perlite.
It is important to note that while there are many advantages of using these techniques, not the least of which is making a wine more suitable for the aging process, one of the disadvantages of fining and filtration is that they can strip a wine of desirable flavor and/or aroma compounds. For this reason, many winemakers who bottle their wines “unfiltered and unfined,” promote them as being superior to those that are. Unfortunately this factor alone does not guarantee a wine’s quality – what good is a wine with more nuanced aromas and flavors if it has been spoiled by the ravages of Brettanomyces? The fact is, there are quality wines in both categories so it’s best to let your palate be the final determiner of a wine’s quality.
Thanks again for your suggestion, Joan and if you’d like to suggest a word for our Wine Word of the Week segment please leave it in the comment section below or on The Glamorous Gourmet & Wine Atelier Facebook Fan Page which you can access by clicking here. If we use your word, your name will be entered into our monthly drawing to win one month of The Wine Atelier’s “Explorateur” Wine Club but remember, you have to play to win!