Are egg whites really used in winemaking?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

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.

Dear Lionel,

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.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Is it OK to brush my teeth before tasting wine? Does toothpaste change the way wine tastes?

Wine Spectator's resident wine expert Dr. Vinny explains why brushing your teeth and wine …

Sep 26, 2022

What’s the difference between Hermitage and Ermitage? Are they the same wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what the H is going on with Hermitage vs. …

Sep 19, 2022

When traveling, are any wines more or less susceptible to bottle shock than others?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the phenomenon of "bottle shock" and how to …

Sep 12, 2022

What’s the best way to remove a crumbly wine cork? I’ve tried everything!

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for extracting crumbly corks, and how to …

Sep 7, 2022

What’s the difference between Petite Sirah and Syrah?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains that Syrah and Petite Sirah have quite a bit in …

Aug 29, 2022

I have about 50 bottles of wine. Should I buy a wine fridge?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice for when to upgrade your wine storage at …

Aug 22, 2022