• Insider Secrets 2021: Fining and Filtering Wine

    Discover with Case by Case the benefits of Fining and Filtering Wine, and how do these processes impact a wine’s quality. Most winemakers around the world use fining and filtering as part of their tool set, though some winemakers reject them.

    Let’s look at why or why not winemakers choose to fine or filter their wines, and how these processes impact wine quality.

    Definition of Natural Wine

    “Natural wine refers to a generalized movement among winemakers for production of wine using simple or traditional methods. Although there is no uniform definition of natural wine, it is usually produced without the use of pesticides or herbicides and with few or no additives.”

    This broad definition leaves enough leeway to drive several freight trains through. Europeans have been making wine with “simple and traditional” methods for centuries.

    The natural wine movement rose as a rejection of large-scale wine production and the use of chemicals.

    Leading natural wine advocates, Alice Fearing and Isabel Legeron, added their definitions. Natural wines are made from organically farmed grapes. They are processed without additives and without removing naturally occurring compounds.

    So, no fining or filtering allowed, or even the use of sulfur (SO2.)

    Most of today’s wide range of natural wines look, taste, and feel different from fined and filtered wines. They can look cloudy or muddy, show muted or less vibrant colors, or even contain floating particles that can be gritty in the mouth. Others are more forgiving.

    As an organic product, wine suffers from bacterial contamination. Fining and filtering are used for stabilization, inhibiting bacteria, and improving a wine’s appearance and drinkability.

    These winemaking tools perfect the look, feel, taste, and ability to age of most wines. Think of these tools as wine’s “finishing school.”

    Fining and Filtering

    The Wine Fining Process

    Winemakers use fining to remove solid particles remaining after fermentation. A clear wine looks more appealing in the bottle than one with particles floating in it.

    Wines with too much tannin can benefit from fining. These wines can be unbalanced, so removing some tannins brings the wine in balance.

    Other reasons for fining include reducing bitter flavors, undesirable aromas, and color changes due to oxygen exposure.

    During barrel aging, a binding agent such as clay, egg whites, or gelatin is introduced. This agent attaches to the debris in the wine. The debris falls to the bottom of the tank and the liquid is racked off the remains.

    Winemakers fine both red and white wines. White wines are fined to remove yeasts and avoid malolactic fermentation. Red wines are fined to clarify the wine or to remove tannins.

    Fining in white wines results in brighter colors after the removal of the yeast. Removing tannins in red wine lightens the color, but not perceptively so.

    Mouthfeel improves from fining because no one wants to drink wine with particles they can feel on the tongue. It’s like drinking funky, muddy water.

    But the more fining a wine undergoes, the greater the impact on the wine. Too much fining can remove compounds that add character and nuance to a wine, such as mouthfeel, color, aroma, and flavor. Removing too much tannin from red wine could impact its ability to age.

    Winemakers should take care when fining a wine. They should use this tool to balance the wine’s elements and provide a pleasant experience for the drinker.

    The Wine Filtering Process

    Filtering takes place after fining but before a wine goes into the bottle. Fining comes first to remove large debris. Then filtering further clarifies the wine by removing any residual particles. It also provides bacterial stabilization.

    As with fining, red and white wines can be filtered. The process entails pouring wine through filter pads or cartridges to remove yeast and bacteria. The more a wine is filtered, the greater the impact.

    Stabilizing wine is critical because unfiltered wines run the risk of contamination. Filtering is necessary to remove and prevent bacteria. If winemakers find evidence of bacterial growth or other significant flaws, filtering benefits the wine. If a wine has no flaws, filtering becomes a choice.

    Winemakers filter white wine to inhibit bacteria from growing in the bottle. Filtering white wine can prevent malolactic fermentation from occurring by removing leftover yeast.

    Red wines are not always filtered because they drop tannins anyway in the form of sediment. Because they are vinified dry and undergo malolactic fermentation, red wines experience less bacterial risk from excess yeast.

    A filtered wine has a cleaner appearance, without haze or particles. But, excess filtering can remove aromatic and flavor compounds and reduce a wine’s ability to age.

    Other filtering methods include adding sulfur (SO2) or racking after fining for red wines. White wines too delicate for filtering can be subject to cold stabilization as an alternative.

    Most winemakers want a clear and stable wine without sacrificing quality. They should apply a light hand when using filtering as a tool.

    Natural Wine, Aging, and Color

    Since people drink most wines young, they aren’t made to age. Most consumers don’t care about the color of wine as it ages. But, understanding color is necessary when choosing a bottle to enjoy.

    Though it seems counterintuitive, white wines grow darker with age while red wines grow lighter.

    The chemical process of aging changes the color compounds in young wines, called anthocyanins, into other pigments, like proanthocyanidins. About half the anthocyanins transform by the end of the first year and most disappear within five years.

    As pigments transform over time, red wines show more orange and brown colors. White wines get darker and richer in color as acids drop and the wine oxidizes. Over a longer time, both red and white wines tend towards orange and brown.

    “Orange” wines, white wines with extended skin maceration, can be mistaken for aged wines.

    Some winemakers promote cloudy wines with muted colors, believing they are more naturally made. These wines are unfined and unfiltered and may or may not be free from flaws.

    Don’t confuse a poorly made wine with one that has been made with care, even if the winemaker used other tools to improve the wine.

    Using these techniques, like any other process, depends on what the winemaker intends. If they want to fine or filter a wine, they do so to improve it. These processes wouldn’t have stood the test of time if they were damaging to the wine.

    Economics may also factor into the decision because consumers prefer nice looking, clean, clear wines. So do wine judges and critics.

    Christian Moueix, who made the famous Chateau Petrus for years, used to say he filtered Petrus because he didn’t hate his customers. That’s enough to make any winemaker consider these tools.

     

    ABOUT Case by Case Wines

    Launched in 2020, Case by Case Wines committed to sourcing wines of exceptional quality and value from around the world at the lowest price point.

    Their direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales model uses technology to integrate and improve the wine distribution channel, resulting in the market’s most competitive pricing.

  • Insider Secrets 2021: Understanding Vintage Variability – Bordeaux vs Napa Valley

    Wine experts talk about vintage wine, but how much do you know about it? Case by Case wants you to know when vintage matters and which vintages are promising before you buy. Using Bordeaux and Napa Valley to illustrate, we share our insider secrets, so you can enjoy better wine and spend less money.

    Vintage Unveiled

    Simply put, the term “vintage” refers to the past and the style of something typical from the time, or the high or lasting quality or value of something.

    With wine, vintage is the date shown on the bottle. This date refers to the year of the grape harvest and the wine made from those grapes. It is not specifically a quality designation.

    Most wines carry a vintage date, but not 100% of the grapes come from that year. Regulations, which differ by country, allow small percentages of grapes from other years.
    Wines without a vintage date, called non-vintage wines, include grapes harvested from two or more years.

    Because grapes are an agricultural product, how they grow is subject to the weather. As goes the weather, so goes the vintage and the wine.

    A year with excellent weather generally translates into excellent wine and vice versa. A good weather year yields a wider variety of enjoyable wines than a poor weather year.

    But other factors influence the quality of wine, so you can’t depend on vintage alone.

    Vintage impact varies dramatically around the world. For example, Bordeaux famously suffers from challenging weather and vintages. Napa Valley, blessed with warmer, drier weather, tends to have consistently easier vintages.

    Does this mean Napa Valley vintage wines are better than Bordeaux vintage wines? No. Each vintage and region stands on its own, but let’s take a look at the vintage year 2011.

    Vintage Bordeaux

    Bordeaux experienced a volatile weather year in 2011, coming after two fantastic years in 2009 and 2010. We should discuss the impact of climate change here, but that’s another topic.

    The weather turned upside down in 2011. Spring was hot, summer cooler, and fall warm. Rainfall was lower throughout the year, except in the fall when you don’t need it. Rain at harvest leads to grapes filling with water, diluting the juice. It also breeds conditions for mold.

    Bordelais winemakers outshine their California compatriots at times like these. Most producers in Bordeaux know how to manage difficult vintages. Growers who were aggressive in the vineyard made enjoyable wine.

    At the end of the season, the white wines excelled, including the famous sweet Bordeaux, instead of the reds. Certain grape varieties thrive under certain weather conditions. White grapes tend to prefer cooler weather.

    Heat-loving Cabernet Sauvignon, California’s favorite, struggles to ripen in cooler temperatures. Wines with higher amounts of Cabernet Franc, though, came through well.

    Not a ripe vintage, 2011 wines exhibit a lighter profile and won’t age well. You can drink this vintage while young, but you need to be selective when buying. Choose a good location with the right varieties, and an excellent producer.

    Vintage Napa Valley

    People assume that due to the Napa Valley climate, it has never had a bad vintage. Most Napa wines, vintage or non-vintage, drink just fine. So, does vintage even matter here? Well, 2011 arrived with some surprises.

    The 2011 growing season challenged winemakers in Napa. They had to employ tactics well-known to their friends in Bordeaux: adjusting the canopy, monitoring mildew, and delaying harvest.

    Napa’s spring weather was colder than usual, and a lot of rain fell in May and June. The cool weather continued into summer, which is generally hot, so grapes did not ripen as expected. Rain fell with another cool spell in early October. A delayed harvest began late in the month after a welcomed heat spike.

    Because this was so unusual, critics expected the wines to be less impressive and gave lower scores. Wine buyers, listening to the critics, stayed away.

    But many producers believe the wines from 2011 show more character, which can be concealed during hotter vintages.

    Wines tend to be lower in alcohol with good acidity and ripe flavors and tannins. Subtle and fresh, they were different from typical lush Napa wines.

    When grapes develop slowly, they increase in complexity. The powerfully rich Napa style comes from rapidly maturing grapes.

    As in Bordeaux, the producer matters. Talented winemakers made good wine in 2011.

    vineyards

    Buying Vintage Wine

    When should you buy a vintage wine, and which vintages should you buy?

    Vintage doesn’t matter with under $20 mass-produced and commercial wines. Producers want to reduce costs, get to market fast and turn inventory over quickly. The work is mostly mechanized. If you buy these wines at your local grocery or convenience store, drink them soon.

    Vintage matters when you buy wine over $20. Quality producers care about the craft of wine, regardless of size. A vintage wine costs more because of the care taken to produce it.

    When to Buy Vintage

    Most wines, including vintages, are ready to drink when you buy them. Buy vintage when:

    1. For special occasions, gifts, or bringing to a dinner party
    2. If you want to impress someone
    3. You collect or age wine
    4. You enjoy wine’s variability year to year
    5. You just like better wine

    If you’re buying cases of wine for a big event, buy non-vintage to save money. Don’t serve vintage wines to a bunch of people drinking all afternoon by the pool. If you prefer your wine to taste the same, we advise against buying vintage.

    How to Buy Vintage

    Here’s a few tips for buying vintage wine:

    • Forget the critics unless you follow one who has the same taste as you
    • Find a retailer who knows the region you want to buy
    • Do your homework – research trusted sites online
    • Look for vintage charts on winery websites, not on critics’ websites
    • Find favorite producers or ask about quality producers
    • To balance quality and price, try a second label from a top winery or a top wine from a less well-known one
    • Instead of a great year, look for a good year with a great winemaker
    • Avoid years with a combination of poor conditions
    • Look for de-classified wines from great producers (wines sold under a lesser classification in a weaker vintage)
    • Buy the style and wine you like from the best vintage you can afford
    • Don’t buy based on trends
    • Ask questions

    vintage

    Vintage Variability

    One of the joys of drinking wine is how they are different every year. Drinking different vintages allows you to learn about the process and decide which vintages you prefer. For example, you might like lighter wines from cooler vintages or robust wines from warmer vintages.

    You also build your palate as you learn how weather conditions influence the flavors and aromas in wine.

    Case by Case encourages you to explore the world of vintage wines!

  • Wine Regions: Loire Valley

    The Loire is a long storied, wine growing region that traces the Loire River which flows from east of Orleans out Angers and pours into the Atlantic Ocean. The valley has been occupied by humans for thousands of years with Roman Empire ruins and remains still visible today. The culture of the Loire toes the line between agricultural and high society. Who would have thought there was a line that would have connected the two?  It is home to some of the most terroir driven wines in the world. With a somewhat unique trait of the valley being positioned east to west, the valley is able to offer a large range in microclimates. The region is essentially broken down into 4 different sub-regions.

    Loire Valley

    The final sub-region is referred to as the Central Vineyards. It is here that you will find some of the greatest expressions of Sauvignon Blanc in the world. In the vineyards of Pouilly-Fume and Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc is made in a bright fresh-style that will have you coming back for more, time and time again. In addition to these top-class white wines, Sancerre also allows for Pinot Noir to be grown. From Pinot, you see expressions of both red and rose wines. Typically, there is a more ripe, fruit forward style that is more similar in style to the Pinot Noirs of Oregon than to those of Burgundy.

    As you move westward and the temperatures start to rise, you see an explosion of diversity. As you get near the two largest growing areas of Anjous and Touraine the main focus is on Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. That being said you will also find plantings of Gamay and Malbec (in the Loire it is called Côt). The diversity doesn’t just stem from the increase in varieties, you will also find wines made in just about every style as well. From Cabernet Franc and Gamay, you will see red, and rose wines being made. From Chenin Blanc you will find dry, sweet, and sparkling wines, even within a single appellation such as Vouvray, you can find all three styles. Learn about the most important appellations:

    Touraine

    Touraine is sort of the wild west of wine in the Loire. You can find wines produced from almost any grape that is allowed in the entire Loire Valley. This gives producers a lot of room to play around with different varieties and styles of wine.

    Vouvray

    One of the most famous region in the world for Chenin Blanc production. They produce just about every style of wine from Chenin. From dry to sweet and even sparkling wines are allowed to use the Vouvray appellation on their labels. The best examples of sweet wines are known to be able to age for lifetimes.

    Bourgueil

    The westernmost region in the Touraine region. This appellation is entirely dedicated to Cabernet Franc. Situated on the north bank of the Loire, these wines present a beautiful intensity that will provide years of potential cellarability.

    Chinon

    Chinon is directly across the river from Bourgueil and is also largely focused on Cabernet Franc. There is a small amount of Chinon blanc that is produced from Chenin Blanc as well, this style is dry.

    Anjou

    A very large growing region that houses mostly Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. The wines currently produced here are very quickly gaining international attention. A huge focus on organic grape growing and a general shift toward sustainability is proving successful for Anjou producers. These wines are almost always dry, even the few Chenins that do have a little bit of sugar still in them tend to be very food friendly.

    Savennieres

    Famous for its dry and off dry expressions of Chenin blanc, this region is home to a number of very important Monopoles formerly owned and maintained by Cistercian Monks.

    Cotteaux-du-Layon

    Sits directly across the Loire river from Savennieres. The climate here is significantly more humid allowing for Botrytis to grow more rampantly. They are famed for their dessert wines.

    Finally there is the Atlantic coastal area that surrounds Nantes. It is here that Melon de Bourgogne finds its home in the Muscadet appellation. Melon does extremely well in the cold overcast climate that is local to the Atlantic shoreline. You can find extremely light and mineral wines meant for immediate consumption, and you can find wines that wineries have already aged in their cellars for the better part of a decade that show a richer fuller style of Melon. The one thing these two styles have in common, is their perfect pairing for shellfish. There isn’t much other representation of other varieties in this region, certainly nothing that has reached the acclaim that Melon has.

    Of the highly regarded wine regions in France, it’s hard to find another that comes close to offering the diversity in wine styles that the Loire does. This may have to do with the East-West orientation of the valley, this may have to do with the long history of Agriculture in the region; the one thing that we can count on is that no matter what you are looking for in your personal adventure in wine, the Loire has something for you.

     

    ABOUT Case by Case Wines

    Launched in 2020, Case by Case Wines committed to sourcing wines of exceptional quality and value from around the world at the lowest price point.

    Their direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales model uses technology to integrate and improve the wine distribution channel, resulting in the market’s most competitive pricing.

  • Insider Secrets 2021: Not the Same 7 Wine Trends to Watch

    Every year, you can read gads of wine trends lists that mostly share the same predictions. At Case-by-Case Wines, we have our own take on what the trends will be this year.

    wine trend celebration fun

    Celebration/Fun

    Everyone’s ready to break out of isolation and celebrate a return to public spaces with actual human beings. So many of us have postponed important events or had low-key gatherings. Once we reach the point where we can go out into the world, we’re going to celebrate! We’ll get together with our friends to drink the special bottles we’ve been saving. We’ll toast to fresh air and human contact with bottles of sparkling Rose, Piquette, and Pet-Nat. We’ll plan weddings, birthday parties, and more. Put the light reds on ice, chill down the wine seltzers, and let the parties begin!

    wine trend travel

    Travel

    Our desire to travel remains behind bars. But 2021 will bring some steps towards travel freedom as the vaccine spreads more widely. We’ll start by driving to local tasting rooms or to a favorite local wine bar to enjoy in-person outdoor wine tastings. Later in the year, we may drive to a neighboring state to sample what they’re pouring. Or take a short flight to Texas, Missouri, Arizona, or New York State to learn what the buzz is about. If travel doesn’t materialize as we hope, we’ll see virtual wine tours (see below.) Cheers!

    wine trend digital wine events

    Digital Wine Events

    During 2020, the wine world went digital in a big way by necessity. Everyone knows Zoom now. Online wine events will continue in 2021, especially if travel doesn’t materialize. In that case, online events will get more creative and engaging. We don’t want the same events we had last year. Look for virtual wine tours and tastings, personalized private tastings for wine club members, or interactive tasting events that add in games, music, or art. Vino-tainment will take-off this year!

    wine trend diversity

    Diversity

    2021 will be the year we put our dollars where our voices are. We’re going to support Women-, African-American-, Asian-, and Latin-owned wine companies. From wineries to small retail shops, we’ll seek out minority-owned businesses. Search out a local tasting room or an online sommelier who lost their job in 2020. Ask for minority-owned wines at your local restaurants. Donate money to minority-owned distributors or importers. Don’t just talk about it. Take action!

    wine trend online shopping

    Online Wine Shopping

    Our online wine shopping habits created in 2020 will continue and even grow, no matter what happens this year. Instead of buying mediocre wine at the grocery store, we learned we could buy much better wine online for a bit more money. Shopping online allowed us to find wines we couldn’t find locally. We could compare prices. We saved money buying by the case. And we didn’t have to lug heavy bottles home from the store. Keep on clicking!

    wine trend food

    Food

    While 2020 destroyed our ability to eat out at our favorite restaurants, it did force us to improve our cooking at home. When we realized we could order fabulous wine delivered to our door, we started recreating restaurant experiences at home. We expect this trend to continue. But, some days, we want to take a break from cooking, so we’ll still order out for delivery and pickup. We should see more restaurants adding canned wine, half-bottles, and low- or no-alcohol options.

    wine trend specific wines

    Specific Wines

    Portugal and Rose Prosecco seem to be on most 2021 wine trends lists. But, we see more interesting options, such as Jura and South West France, plus Austria. These wines offer surprising quality and value. Vermouth’s versatility will make it the ideal wine in 2021. Given the difficult conditions the Australian wine industry faces, expansion in the U.S. will be a priority. We should see more of these incredible wines at more affordable prices. Ditto South Africa if the government sets them free.

    Check out Case-by-Case Wines: great wines from around the world at unheard-of prices.