Monday, May 14, 2018

Strange World of Wine - What is Fining?

Wine is just grape juice fermented with some yeast right?  Yes! At least something I consume is vegan (pauses blogging long enough to take one more bite of luscious cheeseburger). Hold on - not so fast.  In fact many if not most wines are not at all vegan.   Most of the winemaking process is animal free - but a crucial step to give you a beautiful glass of crystal clear wine is called fining.  This is where the animal products are used, and the reason I'll need to add some kale to my diet if I want to truly get my vegan on.

Fining is the process where a substance (the fining agent) is added to the wine in order to trap and remove suspended particles left in the wine from the winemaking process.  Fining not only leads to clearer looking wine, but can have beneficial impacts to the color, taste, and aroma of the wine.  It can also be used to lower the tannin level and even remove some unpleasant aromas (such as rotten egg or onion) that may have developed in the wine (ewwwww!!!).

My first up close look at the process of fining came during a tour of the Muga winery in Haro, Spain. Muga is a global brand, but still uses one of the oldest fining agents in the wine world - egg whites.  Muga is a major wine producer, selling wines all across the world.  They use a combination of traditional methods and high technology, and their process of finding definitely falls into the traditional category.


In the winery, they have this gadget -basically two half steel tubes angled in opposite directions. The top tube has a number of holes along its bottom. To capture egg whites for fining, eggs are cracked into the highest part of the top tube.  As the egg slides down the tube, the whites fall into the holes and drips down to the tube below, which then ultimate slides down into the bowl on the left.  The yolk then continues down and falls into the bowl on the right.  Low tech, but very effective!  With their philosophy of wasting nothing, the egg yolks are used to make candy which they sell in their gift shop.  Rich, but super delish! 


So even though Muga produces a lot of wine, this contraption is sufficient for them to gather egg whites for fining since each egg can clarify a little over 6 gallons (23 liters) of wine.  Check out the bottom of this post for a video showing more about the fining process at Muga.

Historically, other animal based products have been used for fining, including bone marrow, mild protein, gelatin (including some made from the swim bladders of fish), and fiber from crustacean shells.  True, these sound like strange ingredients for wine, but keep in mind they are not really ingredients, but tools to help make a clearer and better tasting wine.  You will run across some wines that are truly vegan, as there are carbon and clay based fining agents as well.  Why not experiment a little and try a "regular" wine and a similar vegan wine and see if you can tell any difference from the different fining agents used?



Muga Winery Fining Process

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please join the conversation! Questions, comments, suggestions - I want it all!!