Ask Wine Wizard

Mellowing A Big Wine


Robert J Carbone — Summit, New Jersey asks,

I make a Chilean Malbec every year and this vintage I aged it in a barrel for 16 months and over that time I racked every two months. Now it’s in a 14-gallon (54-L) demijohn to smooth out the taste a little bit before bottling. Before I put it in the demijohn I tasted it — while the flavor is good it really has to breathe for a couple of hours before it mellows out. I’m not big on putting anything in my wine, but if there is a recommendation that will smooth it out I would certainly consider it.


Even my “purist” winemaking friends usually aren’t opposed to doing a little egg white fining when it comes to smoothing out the rough edges on their big reds. It’s an ancient and very traditional winemaking technique that is affordable and very easy to do. I cover the topic on page 199 in The Winemaker’s Answer Book, but in a nutshell (or eggshell) the process is roughly this:

1. Lightly beat an egg white or two with a few tablespoons of water and a pinch of salt.

2. Gently stir this solution into your red wine (typically a safe addition rate to start with is 1 egg white per 59-gallon/223-L barrel, assuming an egg white yields around 28 mL of egg white. You can scale it up or down to your own batch size from there).

3. Let settle for a week, then rack your wine off of the sediment that forms.

Now if you’ve been reading my articles and books you know I always advocate bench trials with any kind of addition. This is to be able to tell what is the minimum amount of addition that will yield the desired effect. In your case, since you have such a big, tannic wine, it’s possible you’ll want to add a little more egg white-to-wine than the ration I referenced in Step 2. Feel free to experiment. I hope that it’ll “take the edge off” of your big tannic wine and make it a little smoother to your palate.

Response by Alison Crowe.