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Clarifying Wine With Egg Whites

Clarifying Wine With Egg Whites
Clarifying wine is the process of enhancing its clarity, color, and taste. There are insoluble materials that cause the wine to become cloudy, and clarification removes any unwanted sediment deposit. It also removes temperature unstable proteins that would cause the wine to appear hazy, if exposed to a high temperature, once bottled. The goal of clarification is to aid in the production of a wine whose taste, color, bouquet, and clarity are near perfect. Clarifying the wine should not have an effect on its aromas and flavors. There are essentially two groups of materials within the wine that need to be acted upon by a clarifying agent. These are particles of proteins and polyphenols.

Given enough time in a secure and stable environment, many of these suspended particles would gradually precipitate out on their own, as the forces of gravity cause the larger particles to settle at the bottom of the storage container. The use of clarifying agents speed up the process, thus allowing the wine to be produced at a lower cost.

Clarifying a wine can work in one of three ways. The first set of fining agents is based on the principle that the particles in the wine that cause it to be hazy or cloudy hold an electrical charge. Clarifying agents with an opposite electrical field attach themselves to the particles, thus making them heavier, and easier to separate from the wine. In winemaking, fining agents of different charges are usually added sequentially to remove the variously charged particles in the wine. The next set of fining agents are based on bond formation. Rather then an electrical bond, a chemical bond is formed between the fining agent and the particles. Finally, the last set of fining agents work through absorption and adsorption. The particles to be removed are either caught within the structure of the fining agent, or bind to the surface of the fining agent.

Egg Whites as a Clarifying Agent
While there are well over a dozen clarifying agents, one of the oldest techniques involves using egg whites (as seen in “What’s Old is New Again”), a fining agent still used at The Bodegas Muga Winery. Egg whites, which are made up of albumin and globulin, are positively charged which attracts the negatively charged tannins. The peptide linkages of the albumin form hydrogen bonds with hydroxyl groups found on tannins. Once the two attach, they become neutralized and the particles settle, due to their heavier weight. While they agglomerate, the wine appears much more cloudy, until they settle, at which point there is a loss of color. Due to its attraction to tannins, this clarifying technique is not suitable for white wines.

A typical dosage is from 1-5 egg whites per wine barrique/oak barrel (225L). The egg whites should be separated completely from their yolks, before being mixed with one part egg white, and two parts salt water. The mixture is then whisked. Avoid beating the egg white, as the foam prevents it from properly mixing with the wine. Stirring continuously, this mixture is slowly added into the wine. The wine is left alone for two weeks before it is racked. Racking is the process of separating wine from its sediment before it is bottled.

Other Common Fining Agents:

  • Alginate
  • Blood
  • Bentonite
  • Carbons
  • Casein
  • Chitin
  • Egg shell
  • Gum arabic
  • Isinglass
  • Pectin destroying enzymes
  • PVPP (polyvinylpolypyrolidone)
  • Silica gel (Kieselsol)
  • Yeast
  • Gelatine
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