Why are some wines labeled un-fined and unfiltered?

What are unfined wines?

Why are some wines labeled un-fined and unfiltered?

It sounds like a warning, “beware, this wine will have lots of smudge and debris at the bottom of the bottle.” And why would the winemaker want to advertise this?

If you see these terms on a wine label, the winemaker is trying to tell the consumer something and it does not have to do with debris at the bottom. At its core it is a statement of confidence in the quality and longevity of the wine.

All of Stargazer Barn's red wines are un-fined and unfiltered and our whites are all unfined.

Let’s quickly review the fining and filtering of wine.

un-fined and unfiltered wines

Wines are fined when the winemaker wants to tweak the taste and/or mouth-feel of a wine. At its extreme it is used to remove flaws and off flavors or off aromas.  But, mostly it is used to slightly refine a wine into a marginally better tasting beverage. It is a process of adding a fining agent, like milk protein or albumen, mixing it with the wine and then filtering it out or just letting it settle out.  Chemically, the process relies on electrical bonding between negatively and positively charged molecules of wine components. When the fining agent and the wine molecule bind together, they become too big to stay in solution and precipitate out and sink to the bottom. This process is an important wine making tool that is responsible for raising the quality of wine worldwide. Because of fining, consumers are almost guaranteed unflawed, tasty wine no matter what they reach for. Unfortunately, fining cannot differentiate between good and bad wine components, so anytime wine is fined some good comes out with the bad.  In the final analysis, fined wines may taste good, but they have lost some of their soul.

Filtering is simply the process of running wine through a tight, small pored filtering agent that removes bacteria, yeast, large debris and particulate matter. Depending on how tight these filtering pads are, more or less is removed.  Much like fining, filtering results in a clear, bright wine without debris or muck at the bottom. If unfiltered, the producer has confidence that the wine is stable. Unstable wines have residual sugar and/or fermentable acids that will likely “go off” in the bottle – a process of re-fermentation that causes carbonation and potentially new flavors in a bottled wine sitting on a shelf somewhere.  In these cases, wines must be filtered to insure all bacteria and yeast that cause fermentation have been removed.  There is a lot of debate in the winemaking world about the pros and cons of filtering, but all agree that it does alter the wine.  And it certainly does not ruin a wine.  But again, like fining, it undeniably removes some of the wines soul.

un-fined and unfiltered wine process

So, when you read the terms “un-fined and unfiltered” it means that the wine was not over-worked. It means the producer has confidence in the naked grape and the quality of the wine.  Being un-fined and unfiltered the wine has more stuff in it.  By definition it is more complex, and in wine terms, more soulful and memorable.  Having more in it also gives the wine longevity, both in terms of years it can age and in terms of hours or days it will remain tasty after being open.  Unfiltered wines have residual by-products of dead yeast cells still in solution. These compounds among many others that are in higher concentration - because they have not been removed - add antioxidant power to the wine. We all know oxygen feeds fire.  At a molecular level, it does the same thing. When exposed to oxygen, a wine begins a chemical burn due to the highly reactive oxygen molecules being absorbed into the wine solution. The burn changes the quality of the wine which eventually results in a diminished and inferior product.  Un-fined and unfiltered wines by design have more antioxidant power, giving them more protection from deleterious oxygen. 

Un-fined and unfiltered wines will last longer in your cellar and longer on your counter if you do not finish the soulful wine in one sitting. ... which is unlikely.

Check out our wine on Amazon as well, http://www.amazon.com/shops/stargazerbarn

To go deep on this topic, head over to Wikipedia.


Amy Nicole Marietta