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Using Eggs Whites To Fine White Wine

TroubleShooting

Ben Garcia — Colorado Springs, Colorado asks,
Q

I’m making a white wine and want to add egg white to help with the fining before my last racking. Is there any information on how to do the egg white thing?

A
For readers who don’t know, adding a solution of egg whites to wine does a nice job of pulling out excess tannins and phenolics that might cause your wine to be overly astringent and/or bitter. Traditionally used in Burgundy as a way to “smooth out” the rough edges that might exist around one’s Pinot Noir (horrors!), egg white fining has a big fan club around the globe because it’s an all-natural, minimally-interventionist way to polish up one’s red or white wine before bottling. The big question you have to ask yourself is: how tannic is your wine, really? Since you’ve got a white, I’m guessing not too bad unless you squeezed the snot out of it at harvest-time. It is red wines that typically need higher doses of egg whites because they naturally carry more tannin — the more egg white you add, the more tannin the protein will pull out of solution. A not-so-tannic wine that needs just a teeny bit of smoothing out probably will do well at a dose of 0.20 mL of egg white per gallon of wine while a red wine with perceptible pucker and astringency may do better at 1.0 mL of egg white per gallon dose. If you have the patience (and the ability to measure out really small volumes) try doing a “bench trial” on 100 mL of wine or so first, to see what you prefer. However, if you want to just go with a gut feeling, that’s OK. Figure that your average American egg will have around 24 mL of egg white per shell. For 20 gallons (76 L) of wine, here’s my egg white fining procedure (multiply the quantities accordingly): 1. Break your egg and carefully separate the white from the yolk. 2. Measure out 9.2 mL of egg white in a graduated cylinder or with a pipette and place in a small bowl. 3. Add a tiny pinch of table salt and enough water (a few mL or a little more) to make a liquid solution. 4. With a whisk or a fork, gently dissolve the egg white into the water, taking care not to beat too much air into the solution. We don’t want any meringues here! 5. Dump the entire solution into your vessel and stir gently with a long stirring rod for about 30 seconds or so to make sure the liquid is distributed. 6. Leave covered (if you have headspace, gassing with CO2 or Argon is always a good idea after you open a vessel) for about two-three weeks to settle out. 7. Rack the wine carefully into another container (that hopefully is a good fit for your wine volume — we want everything topped up, right?), leaving any sediment on the bottom. Feel free to leave the wine sitting a little bit longer until you rack in case you can’t get around to it, but don’t wait longer than four weeks. I’ve sometimes had wine sitting on egg white fining for too long get “manky” (a term my Australian interns used to say, I think it means “gross”).
Response by Alison Crowe.