Over the past several decades, the trend of drinking unfiltered wines has rapidly increased and has become very popular among consumers who have an alimentary focus on drinking and eating products that are produced either naturally or made with minimum intervention. In the wine industry, unfiltered wine-making is perceived as a return to the traditional old-school methods of winemaking, which were practiced long before modern winemaking techniques were used. Each of the two winemaking methods has its benefits and disadvantages.
Before making the decision whether to choose an unfiltered or filtered wine, it is essential to have an understanding of what each type of wine offers.
What is Filtered Wine, and What Happens During The Filtering Process?
The wine is filtered twice before it is bottled. During the first filtration, the wine is pushed through a membrane (material very similar to a coffee filter) and removes organic particles, residual yeast, and leftover proteins. The second filtration (fining) is carried out to remove any tiny bacteria and crystallized acids, which helps to stabilize the wine and also helps to prevent eventual defects and other adverse effects that could potentially lead to the wine going “off” in the bottle. During the fining process, harsh tannins can also be removed, which gives the wine less astringency and makes it softer, and adds clarity to the wine. If required, specific acids that can make the wine have a sour taste can be targeted and removed during the filtration process. Often animal products such as gelatine, casein, isinglass, and egg whites are used during the fining process. Even though these substances do not remain in the final wine, if the wines have been fined with animal-based products, then they will be unsuitable for individuals that adhere to a strict vegan diet.
When the wine has completed the fermentation stage, the winemaker skips the filtration process. Instead, the wine is left to settle until all the yeast and other debris have settled to the bottom of the tank. The wine is then gently racked from the lees (yeast sediment) by siphoning the clear wine before it is bottled. Just because a wine is unfiltered does not mean its color will be cloudy, and it is easy to pick up a difference in color between the two types of wine. to tell the difference between a filtered and unfiltered wine by its color. Residual bacteria can affect the quality of a wine, and there are methods to remove the bacteria in unfiltered wines that build whilst it undergoes fermentation. The bacteria can be suppressed during the second malolactic fermentation, or alternatively, a higher dose of sulfites can be added to help stabilize the bacteria in the wine. The downside of using these techniques can result in the loss of some of the distinct fruit flavors in the wine; the fruit flavors are replaced by aromas that are nutty and creamy.
What Are The Benefits of Filtered Wine?
Filtered wines tend to have fewer flaws which can translate into a longer shelf life. Some producers firmly believe that filtration hurts the character of the wine. However, when compared with filtered wines, the difference in the flavor and body of the two different styles of wine. Filtering wine helps to achieve a sterile environment inside the bottle as well as to prevent a second malolactic fermentation in the bottle. Filtered wines are also clearer in appearance than their unfiltered counterparts. An experienced winemaker knows how to avoid removing components during the filtration process, which is essential to ensure the overall quality of the wine.
What Are The Benefits of Unfiltered Wine?
Advanced winemaking technology has enabled winemakers to be more adventurous with their unfiltered wine experiments as they now better understand how to store their wine. Many consumers have a perception that some unfiltered wines appear to have a deeper color concentration and are more interesting to drink and feel that they can experience a purer expression of flavor as well as a well-rounded fuller sensation inside the mouth. These are common attributes that make wine more enjoyable to drink. Does this mean that unfiltered wine is better? Not at all. Unfiltered wines have gained popularity among the health-conscious population as they are made naturally and can be perceived as a healthy option for wine drinkers. Unfiltered wine is also a logical choice for vegan wine drinkers as the wine has not come into contact with animal byproducts. However, there is not enough scientific proof to indicate that they are superior to filtered wines.
Which Wine Ages Better - Filtered or Unfiltered?
Aging wine is always a risky business, regardless of whether the wine has been filtered or not. The quality and variety of grapes and the winemaking techniques used to make the wine will ultimately decide how long a wine can age. Wine filtering is very beneficial for the removal of unwanted elements; however, if a wine undergoes excessive fining and filtering, then this can affect how long the wine can be aged as some of the phenolic solids that are essential for the aging process may be stripped from the wine. Unfiltered wines on the other hand, may contain harmful bacteria that could harm the aging process. On a positive note, some leftover natural residue creates an ideal environment for the wine to live to a fine old age. Basically, there is no precise answer at present, but with more and more unfiltered wines sleeping in cellars around the world, there should soon be more concrete empirical evidence to determine if one type of wine ages better than the other.
Choosing a filtered or unfiltered wine is a matter of preference and is another exciting aspect of your wine-discovery journey. As a rule of thumb, most sweet white wines, floral white wines, and wines produced on a large scale are filtered. The best way to find unfiltered wines is to look for winemakers who produce red wine in small quantities as well as dryer wines and white wines that are aged in oak. A perfect way to learn some of the differences between filtered and unfiltered wines would be to host your own wine-tasting event and then decide if you prefer one style or the other, or both, one of the wonderful things about being a wine lover is keeping an open mind and try to discover as many different types of wines as possible.