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What Is Fining in Wine? The Process Explained

What Is Fining in Wine? The Process Explained

You’ve probably heard the phrase a glass of fine wine. However, a fine wine has nothing to do with the fining in wine.

Wine speak is full of confusing terms. Today we are tackling fining in wine.

What Is Fining in Wine?

In layman’s terms, fining removes impurities from wine while it is still in the cellar. It is an ancient tradition that clarifies wine by getting rid of compounds that make it cloudy or give it a bitter flavor and weird scent.

Fining involves 3 primary processes: absorption, chemical reaction, and clarification. During the absorption process, fining agents soak up proteins and yeast cells.

During the chemical phase, reactions occur between tannins and the fining agents, leading to broken compounds being absorbed. Clarification occurs when inert properties such as silica can clarify the wine. As the particles move throughout the wine, it will visibly look clearer.

Fining can also eliminate colloids (a group of phenolics, tannins, and polysaccharides). 

Although fining agents bond to impurities by making them large enough to be removed from the wine, some wine purists do not believe in fining. They believe fining dilutes the wine of its natural flavor and viscosity.

What’s the Difference Between Fining and Filtering Wine?

Although both filtering and fining are similar, they are not the same thing. In short, one comes after the other.

Fining happens first to remove any large impurities. Filtering happens next to remove any residual impurities after it has been fined. In addition to this, filtering also happens before the wine is bottled, but the wine must be fined first.

Is Fining Wine Necessary?

Whether or not fining wine is necessary depends on who you ask. Some people are for fining wine while others are strictly against it.

Nevertheless, fining does improve the color of white wines. However, finding red wine can also dilute the color of white wines. Fining also removes tannins giving the wine a smoother texture.

Do Fining Agents Stay in Wine?

Wines should not contain any trace of fining agents. However, fining agents are often allergens.

Therefore, some countries make it mandatory to place an allergen label on the bottle of wine. This label acts as a disclaimer to warn the user that trace amounts of fining agents may remain in the finished wine.

What Is the Best Fining Agent for Wine?

There are 2 primary types of fining agents: inorganic and organic. Organic fining agents include the milk protein casein, gelatin, egg whites, isinglass, and skim milk. Inorganic fining agents include bentonite, carbon, and polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP).

All fining agents serve the same purpose. However, the most popular fining agent is casein.

Is Wine Better After Fining?

Again, this question truly depends on who you ask, as there are wine producers who are against fining and those that love fined wines.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, yes, wine is better after fining. In particular, red wines have a softer acidic, slightly bitter flavor and color after they have been fined.

Therefore, fined wines are better for new wine drinkers since they can have a softer flavor, allowing you to ease into the world of wine.

However, flavor dilution is the main reason wine purists are against fining. You can easily distinguish fined wines from unfined wines because they are clearly and boldly stated on the bottle.

Additionally, fining also clears up the cloudiness of wine. Yes, most wines will clear up on their own, but they still need to be fined as it stabilizes the product.

In contrast, unfined wines have suspended particles that can make the wine cloudy. In addition to this, the wine’s appearance may change within 2-3 years, and the proteins can become denatured at high temperatures.

On the downside, most fining agents can be potential allergens. So, proceed with caution and read the label carefully if you are allergic to specific compounds like casein, skim milk, and egg whites.

Nevertheless, in general, fining agents are necessary to remove hydrogen sulfide from the wine, so fined wine may be better than its unfined counterparts.

Final Thoughts

The next time you hear someone talk about fining in wine, you don’t have to be so confused. You can chime in on the conversation since you are well versed on the subject of fining in wine.

Furthermore, if you’ve never had a glass of fine wine, now is the perfect time to do so, especially if you’ve never had wine. You can even try both fined and unfined wines and compare both to see which one is better for your palette.