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Cloudbusting - why aren't all wines cloudy?

When I first started learning about wine, I was told that cloudy appearance in a wine is a fault, yet we are becoming more and more accustomed to seeing a bit of haze in our glass. So what is it that makes a wine cloudy? And perhaps more importantly, what makes a wine clear?

Wine in its purest form will be cloudy. The dead yeast from the fermentation and sediment from the pressed grapes will all contribute to the haze. Over the years, winemakers have developed ways to clarify the liquid to make it more presentable as, particularly with whites, some people find translucency to be off-putting. These are generally separated into two categories: fining and filtration.

Fining is the process by which substances are added to the wine to bind the unwanted particles and make them easier to remove, by either allowing the clumps to settle or by filtering them out. Examples of fining agents include bentonite, egg albumen, gelatine and isinglass. Bentonite is a (usually calcium or sodium based) clay which brings excess proteins to the surface of the wine, allowing them to be removed easily. Egg albumen comes from the whites of eggs, and isinglass is a protein found in fish bladders. These all allow the smaller colloids to be collected, that would normally pass through a filter, or would take a long time to settle.

Filtration is the physical process by which the wine (which may or may not have been subjected to a fining agent) passes through a filter in order to remove the sediment.

So why do some producers choose not to do this? Many natural winemakers believe that these processes remove some of the vital characteristics of the wine, as many of these also soften flavour and can take out some of the compounds which will allow a wine to develop over time. For others, the use of animal products in the production of a wine is undesirable. Some natural winemakers will still use light filtration, or rack the wine slowly off its sediment to remove as much of it as possible.
For us at Buon Vino, a hazy wine is a sign that the winemaker has trusted in nature and is confident in the quality and stability of his wine. That’s not to say that we are horrified at the sight of a clear glass, but that we recognise haziness not as a ‘fault’, but simply and ‘alternative’.

Intrigued by cloudy wine? Try our cloudy wine case!