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Techniques in Home Winemaking

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Wine is cloudy


There can be several different causes of cloudiness in wine.




Incomplete alcoholic fermentation
A common cause amongst beginners is an incomplete alcoholic fermentation. Although there may seem to be no yeast activity, yeast might still be fermenting quietly, and that will cause the wine to be cloudy until fermentation completes and lees fall to the bottom. So be sure to monitor fermentation with your hydrometer and proceed to racking, clarification and stabilization only when fermentation is complete.

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Improper racking/clarification
The most common cause though is improper racking or clarification, either fining or filtration, where particles go back into suspension in the wine. Let the wine settle until the wine becomes clear again, then carefully rack without disturbing the sediment, and fine and/or filter again as desired. Always fine using the recommended rate of addition and wait period before racking. And if filtering, be sure to filter progressively with finer pads, i.e., do not attempt to filter an unclear wine using fine pads without first doing a coarse filtration, then a clarifying filtration, and finally a fine filtration.

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Wine is not protein stable
A perfectly crystal clear wine can also suddenly turn cloudy if it is protein/heat unstable, i.e., it has a high protein content that can cause cloudiness if the wine is subjected to high temperatures. If the wine was properly racked, fined and/or filtered, and then it turned cloudy, test the wine for protein/heat stability. If the test is positive, treat the wine with bentonite.

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High pectin content
Another cause of cloudiness is high-pectin content, usually a more common occurrence in fruit and country wines. If the wine was properly racked, fined and/or filtered, and then it turned cloudy, test the wine for the presence of pectin. If the test is positive, treat the wine with pectic enzymes.

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Excessive aeration in high-iron content wine (ferric casse)
A lesser-known cause is a condition known as ferric casse that occurs from excessive aeration, particularly in high-iron content wine. If the wine was properly clarified and heat stabilized, and then it turned cloudy, first fine and/or filter the wine again until it becomes clear, then add ascorbic acid just prior to bottling. To prevent ferric casse in wine known to have a high-iron content, add gum arabic.

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