There are quite a few wine gadgets on the market. Many of them are completely useless, and that’s certainly true of a wine filter. There are only a few circumstances where you might need one. Even then, the wine will be perfectly drinkable without it, and so rather than shelling out, you might as well just make your own filter at home with a few basic bits of kit.
When You Might Theoretically Need a Wine Filter
- Sulphate Crystals
Ever left a bottle in the car during cold weather? When you came back to it, you might have noticed tiny crystals at the bottom, and panicked thinking they were glass shards or some poisonous residue. They weren’t. They were completely harmless tartrate crystals, which are often removed from wine before it gets bottled. Potassium bitartrate is a natural fruit acid produced by grapes, and without filtration, it will still be swirling around in the wine. Storing the wine somewhere like a cold cellar will make it condense into crystals.
- Skins and Lees
These are left in the bottle so that the wine will continue to develop flavours. More colour and tannin will come from the skin, and yeasty, bready notes will come from the lees, which are the dead yeast cells from the fermentation process. Typically they will collect at the bottom. As long as you don’t shake the bottle, you’ll be able to pour glass after glass without disturbing the sediment.
- Cloudy Protein
Normally, wine is cloudy. That’s because there are strands of protein floating around in the mixture, but as part of the enjoyment of wine is looking at it, the protein gets removed with egg white. The result is a sparkling, clear wine. It’s also less likely to spoil, but then, it won’t have as much as character.
- Grey Powder
This is a pretty rare wine fault which has been largely eliminated through better winemaking technique. If the wine comes into contact with old iron cellar equipment, a grey powder can form in the liquid along with a bad egg smell. You could filter wine on detecting this problem. But you should definitely stop buying wine from that maker.
What You Can Do About It
For most of these faults, do nothing. Filtration just removes texture from a wine, which all part of the enjoyment. Of course, if the wine does smell bad, simply throw it away.
Yet if you really don’t want any crystals getting into your glass, or fine lees particles, there are several acceptable household solutions such as:
- Coffee filter paper
- A tea strainer
- A cheese cloth
- A fine sieve
Wines that Might Have Crystals or Lees
As mentioned, unfiltered wines taste great! Yet some are more likely to have the above particles than others, and so if you’re looking for really characterful bottles, try the below:
- Petit Bernat Tinto
This is a red made from Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Expect a full bodied, plummy wine with woody notes. It is totally unfiltered too. What’s more, it is a ‘green’ wine made with organic processes, and Guía Peñín gave it 84 points, which shows that for all it’s lack of filtration it’s certainly not that shabby.
- Les Paradetes
Here is another proudly ‘green’ wine. There isn’t even a hint of filtration or clarification about it, and frankly, that’s what allows the wine to express even more of its character. As a result, it has a pronounced aroma of luscious dark fruits.
If You’re Still Worried About Wine
With a little knowledge, you can spot any wine fault. Read ‘How to Spot 3 Common Wine Faults’, and be well prepared for wine problems that really matter.