Check out the new, mobile-friendly WineSpectator.com!
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.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
On a trip to the West Coast recently, I found an interesting wine shop that specialized in small-run wines. A gentleman working there told me about a winemaking technique that uses egg whites to mellow out tannins. I found it hard to believe, but he said that it was "old school" German winemaking. I bought a bottle, but I'm wondering if there's any truth to this egg-white thing.
—Lionel, Glenside, Pa.
You'd be surprised how common egg whites are in the production of wine. Egg whites (as well as powdered clay, gelatin and even fish bladders) can be used in the "fining," or clarification and stabilization, of wines. These fining agents are added to a wine to coagulate with sediment particles and settle to the bottom, where they can be easily removed. Egg whites are popular for their high content of albumin (a type of protein), which make them a good tool for fining wine because they gently absorb harsh and bitter tannins, leaving behind softer tannins.
We're talking regular, store-bought eggs, by the way. Two or three egg whites are all you need for a 55-gallon barrel of wine. The leftover yolks hopefully go into a soufflé.
This is definitely "old school" winemaking, although there's also a camp of "purist" winemakers who don't believe in fining or filtering wines at all, because they feel that it strips a wine of its character. Anyway, fining has been around for centuries, and it's not specific to German winemaking.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions
New! Ratings Flash | New! Unfiltered