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Ask Dr. Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.




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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I used to enjoy holding a glass of wine up to the light and admiring its beautiful clarity. Nowadays it seems wines are more often murky. What's so great about unfiltered wine? Is it more flavorful?

Jim H., Houston

Dear Jim,

Whether or not a wine is filtered is a stylistic choice, and does not necessarily make the wine "better" or "worse." Most winemakers prefer to filter or fine a wine to remove those tiny particles that are the cause of cloudy or hazy wines. Filtering also helps ensure that a wine remains stable after bottling. But some winemakers believe that too much filtering and fining can strip a wine’s flavors and aromas, and unfiltered wines can have an appealing texture and mouthfeel.

Filtering was the de facto winemaking style until fairly recently—perhaps because, historically, wine could be a frequently unstable product. But with advancements in winemaking techniques and a better understanding of how to avoid spoilage and unwanted fermentations after a wine is bottled, it’s much safer to experiment with unfiltered wines. I think some unfiltered wines are a reaction to what might be perceived as overly “clean” or “mass-produced” wines, and a movement toward “natural” winemaking. I’m using a lot of quotation marks here because these terms are used inconsistently, and can be trigger words for some wine geeks.

I don’t personally select a wine based on whether or not it was filtered and fined—I enjoy a wide variety of winemaking styles. But it is nice to know that a filtered wine is much less likely to be flawed.

—Dr. Vinny

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