Ask Wine Wizard

Fining Red Wines

TroubleShooting

Frank Scafide — Cleveland, Ohio asks,
Q

What are your thoughts about fining reds? If you recommend it, what type of agents are best (and most available to a home winemaker). Also, I make blends on occasion and wonder if I should blend at crushing or after aging.

A
Red wines are typically not fined as often as white wines, to which we often add bentonite in order to remove potentially haze-causing proteins. The tannin from the skins of red wines tends to bind with excess protein, the agglomeration of which will precipitate out during the fermentation process. Nor do we usually cold-stabilize red wines, where cold storage (often 32–35 °F/0–2 °C for a few days) and a potassium bitartrate addition precipitate excess tartrate crystals from the wine, which can look like glass shards. The bottom line is that, visually at least, red wines just hide a lot of instabilities much better than white wines and so especially for small lot producers whose wines are not widely distributed (which includes home winemakers), many of us just don’t bother with fining our reds at all. Longer storage in barrel before bottling does a lot of the work for us; we let time and gravity work their magic. Many of us tend to simply rack our red wines off the well-settled lees before bottling and call it a vintage. However there
Response by Alison Crowe.