First, let’s talk about bulk aging. Bulk aging of wine is usually done in a glass or PET plastic carboy after all signs of fermentation have ended. The main benefit to bulk aging is that you might not need any additional equipment or additives. If you are already making wine and/ or beer at home, chances are that you already have an extra carboy sitting around. However, bulk aging takes time and it will keep a carboy out of commission for a while. This can slow down your production and lead to the dreaded all-out-of-wine situation. There is also no guarantee that after the wine is bottled it will stay as clear as it was in the carboy, as some particles can hide in suspension until they warm up. This is particularly true in red wines that will be served at warmer temperatures.

 

The second option for clarifying is filtering. Filtering works by forcing the wine through a fine filter that removes many suspended particles from the wine. However, filtering takes much more equipment including the filter unitfilter pads, and a method to force the wine through the filter. Some filter units work using gravity while others requires pumps or gas tanks to force the wine through the filter pad. Gravity units are the least expensive but require a longer filter time, especially for a very cloudy wine that will quickly clog the filter and slow down the process. Pump units are generally more expensive and require either a hand pump, a centrifugal pump, or a gas cylinder such as CO2 or Nitrogen. Also, most pump filters are one-time use and will have to be replaced after each filter session. While filters are relatively inexpensive, this additional cost should be factored into your wine purchasing decisions.

 

Fining agents, or finings, are the last option we will discuss today. Fining agents include a wide variety of additives that work in different ways to remove particles from your wine. There isn’t a single cure-all fining agent that will remove every particle suspended in a wine. The best option is to use a mix of several different finings to produce a perfectly clear wine. Most finings work by attracting either positively or negatively charged particles that are suspended in wines. Positive finings attract negative particles and vice-versa. There are some finings that work by other methods, but we will discuss that in the future. Fining agents are added at several different points throughout the winemaking process such as: before fermentation, towards the end of fermentation, after fermentation, after secondary aging, and right before bottling. Most finings work best if added at the correct time, but some are more versatile than others and can be used at different times of the winemaking process.

 

Next week we will go into more detail about the various fining agents, what they do, and the best way and time to add them to your wine. New to winemaking? Check out Amy's post about making wine at home using winemaking kits!

 

-Austin Jones

 

Austin has been brewing beer commercially and at home for the past decade. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments at info@texasbrewinginc.com.