Just wanted to mention this because I have noticed that there are a lot of junior winemakers on the site, and the tendency to rush seems to be a pretty common thing.
The best way to clear a wine is to rack and wait. Finings are used to make a clear wine absolutely sparkle, and to clear wines which have a problem clearing. I am speaking strictly for smaller batches of 5-15 gallons. If you are making a barrel of wine it is better to wait quite a while- 2 months to a year depending on the age of the barrel to let the micro-oxygenation of the wine work and also if it's a new enough barrel to add tannin and flavor from the wood, then storing in bulk to age in inert containers IE carboys.
Rack early and often a friend of mine says, and to a point its a good piece of advice. Kit wine makers often do not rack early enough, and they bottle too soon instead of waiting longer to let the wine mellow longer in bulk and drop all the solids out and be perfectly clear. The longer wine sits in bulk the easier it is on the wine. Fruit wine makers need to rack it several times with months in between rackings and adding campden as needed to maintain SO2 levels to protect it.
So down to the point of this whole post, finings. I recommend 2 of them pretty much, though some traditional ones work as well. Bentonite is the best fining agent I have found and it works great by creating a strong positive charge in the wine and causes clumping and falls out very quickly. The advantage of that is that you can rack it off fairly soon after you add it. It does not tend to pull much color or bouquet out of the wine either which some others do. The other one I recommend is sparkloid, specifically hot mix. This clears the wine and really polishes it so it sparkles in the glass. It tends to pull out a bit of color but works well. I usually use it after bentonite for wines that are pretty devoid of color like a white grape fruit wine or maybe even a chablis from a concentrate. Red wines I stay away from the stuff. It's is not really needed. As far as traditional finings, one that works very well is egg white. You mix it with water, not beat it you don't want foam (adds oxygen) you want it runny, then you mix it into the wine. If anyone is really interested in this method I can give you more exact amounts but since bentonite works or time works I doubt you will be using this though it does work, it's traditional, and as far as I know is safe.
One product I have seen in a few stores and a lot of online retailers something called kietosol-40 also called wine/beer/liquorquik "eurofinings" clarifier. It's a two part with chitosan which itself is a pretty decent clarifier and anyone who has used a kit has probably seen it. The problem I have with this particular fining agent is that with the 2 part system it seems to take a lot of color and drop it out of the wine, and once it's done there obviously is nothing you can do about it. Based on two or three tries with this I really can't recommend it, though I must add that I have used it for apple wine with very nice results.
Just wanted to put this out there. Finishing the wine can be done a lot of ways, filter, fining (always done before you filter anyway, usually with bentonite), or just plain old time. Patience is the most important ingredient!
I hope you don't mind I made it a 'sticky' because I think this is pretty important stuff.
Have you ever heard of Isinglas or Super Kleer K.C. and used it? I recently used Super Kleer and it works in 12-48 hrs.
I talked to my nearby wine shop and he uses the Isinglass which takes about 2 wks. He sells both and claims he sells more Isinglass than K.C. although K.C. is suppost to be a more superior product.
HD that is pretty interesting. I look forward to what DGreene will say about it
It really depends what you are making. The superklear is basically a kietosol two part same as the article is about. It takes a lot of color which is why a warn people off, you really need more control of what you are making most of the time although a lot of people myself included use it for apple wine to pull out more color.
The best wine clarifier to start with is bentonite. It's very fast and works well using a positive charge to attract protiens and the like and clumps hard. Sparkeloid is also a great product and works great using a negative charge to attract particles. The kietosol superkleer etc uses both and drops all sorts of stuff out that you might not want out. Isinglass takes longer but works well without stripping much color or bouquet. It's important to note here that taking more out of a wine does not make a fining agent "superior", it just makes it harder to judge what you are going to lose and once it is gone, it's gone. Even filtering takes color and flavor from wine, and if you are not careful it can add a cardboard flavor too! Isinglass is gentler on the wine, but the best is time. Depending on what you make you may not ever need the stuff if you are patient enough, though truth be told I almost always use bentonite, and occationally egg white.
What's the time frame for bentonite?
Depends, ECKraus sells a speedy bentonite that works in about 24-48 hours but I usually give it about a week to be safe. Regular bentonite works in basically the same timeframe but the rapid clearing is longer. It's important to boil the water when you mix up the bentonite in either case as it changes the charge of the water by driving off oxygen which in itself is a benefit. Also it is usefull in making sparkling wines when used in small amounts as it helps the settling of the yeast prior and during the riddling and freeze/disgourge process.
The super kleer/kietosol is basically chitosan with ionized super pure water which you mix in first. My main problem with it is that everyone thinks more is better. It pulls a LOT of color out of wine which is bad sometimes. I did use it in apple wine to eliminate some color in that because I want my wine to look like something other than straight apple juice from the store. Many wines except ones you want to consume early you need not use finings at all, just rack and wait, rack and wait, until it clears on it's own. Finings are best used when needed for specific things, like dropping out tartaric using cream of tarter as a catalyst and cold stabilizing, or bentonite for protiens and yeast, sparkleoid for the haze, pectic or other enzymes for starch haze etc. Some people still use milk or egg whites, I have used egg whites with great success in heavy reds to reduce the body a bit without stripping color or nose.
What do you think of gelatin?
I read up on it as a fining agent and used some in a test bottle thats a hair cloudy but not very old. Promised it to a friend though i warned them heh. But i want it clear as possible. I have to say it cleared Fast though i havent racked it out of the bottle yet. Heavy yeast sediment.
It works good, you do have to rack it off tho.
So pleased that you tell people to wait ... wine is not made in 2 weeks !
I always use bentonite towards the end (because it works well), and always wait before racking off (what's the hurry?). I use silicon dioxide to give a final 'sparkle in the glass'
Love it trevor I have the bentonite on shelf just haven't used it.
Cos I'm either very patient or very lazy I leave the wine for quite a long time after the 'final' racking and, as you say Bob, it will often be amazing clear without using any finings.
just reading and found this
"Colloidal Silicon Dioxide as a Fining Agent for Wine
Gregory D. Hahn 1 and Phillipp Possmann 1
1 Institut für Weinchemie und Getränkeforschung, Hessische Forschungsanstalt für Wein-, Obst-, und Gartenbau, 6222 Geisenheim, West Germany.
"Kieselsol," a generic name for an aqueous colloidal suspension of silicon dioxide, was first used in Germany as a fining agent in conjunction with gelatin during World War II, when tannin was unobtainable. It fell into disuse until recently, when a review of its physical and chemical characteristics indicated that it would be a useful and desirable substitute for tannin in wine and fruit-juice fining. Freshly fermented apple wine was employed in a comparison between tannin-gelatin and Kieselsolgelatin finings.