What the F*** is unfined and unfiltered wine?
One of the awesome parts of the natural wine movement happening in many of America's craft wineries, is that so much unfined and unfiltered wine is making to our shelves and our seasonal wine allocations from our favorite wineries. In wine, fining and filtering go hand in hand as the process for creating clear wine, so simply put any unfined and unfiltered wine is a wine that has not gone through these processes. The result is often a wine that looks cloudy as opposed to a translucent liquid we often associate it with. But does that mean it is any better? Or is this just a hot trend in natural wine?
The process of fining and filtering
Most wines that we see on the shelves of our local stores go through a fining and filtering process to remove things from the wine and improve its clarity. To do this first the winemaker will add a fining agent which attracts small solids to it, later falling to the bottom of the wine and leaving it clearer. Wines will then go through a filtering process of being passed through a fine mesh to remove any lingering particles and sediment. These processes are tools available to winemakers, but many winemakers choose not to do it, and there is a debate raging in winemaking communities around the world as to whether using these tools or not is best.
What makes unfined and unfiltered wines good?
Wines that are unfined and unfiltered are not a signal of quality, but rather a tell of the winemaker's ideals. Its all a personal choice, but we here at Vynl often go crazy for a cloudy, unfined and unfiltered wine because it is a signal that the wine is as natural as you can get. And we do love our natural wines! The experience of drinking a hazy, cloudy wine is hard to pinpoint. More often than not the wine has a funky flair to it.
Natural winemakers will swear that unfined and unfiltered wines are the only way you can get a true expression of terroir., further adding that by stripping the solids, yeast, and bacteria from the wine that you are further stripping it of its character. For many it is a stance in their fight against generic, industrialized wines. Their hands off approach means they are letting the wine express itself instead of trying to fit it into a defined box or preconceived notion of what a wine should be.
Of course there is still a lot of debate in the wine world as to whether unfined and unfiltered wines are anything to be writing home about. For every winemaker that makes a hazy wine there are dozens who insist on using fining and filtering to create the wines they can be proud of. They would reason that in doing so they are removing flaws from the wine and making something of note. Many wines on both sides of the debate fall into In the end it all comes down to personal choice and whether you see fault or flair, flaw or character. Great wine is defined by attention to detail, whether that work is hands on or hands off, at the end of the day its about how much care is put into the bottle.
So should I treat unfined and unfiltered wines differently?
Treat an unfined and unfiltered wine as you would any other wine. Open your heart to it, see if you like it, and enjoy it for what it is. Store it in a cool, dark place like you would any other wine. If you find that the rugged character of these raw, natural, unfined wines is something that really grabs your heart then that is awesome! If you prefer your wine to be a bit more polished then that is great as well. Unfined and unfiltered is not a mark of quality, and you will find good and bad wines on both ends of the fining and filtering spectrum. Rather this should be a sign for what you are about to get into, and a marker for what the winemaker stands for.