Wine comes in many forms. Red, white, orange (yep, orange!). Still or sparkling. Natural and conventional. And even filtered vs unfiltered! In this blog, we’re going to take a look at what unfiltered wine is, why people choose to drink unfiltered wine, and how to drink it without drinking a mouthful of sediment!
So, What is Unfiltered Wine?
In short, unfiltered wine is wine that hasn’t been passed through a filtering medium to capture particles that would be considered flawed in a conventional wine. Typically this is done using a type of sieve, often with multiple pass-throughs to progressively capture finer particles. The final pass-through captures yeasts.
Filtration is part of the larger process of clarification, which also includes fining and flotation. Fining is the process of removing larger particles, typically with organic materials such as egg yolks (vegans, beware of fined wines!).
This is an undisgorged pet-nat, so it has a LOT of sediment!
Why Are Natural Wines Often Unfiltered?
The final pass-through in a filtered wine, called microfiltration, includes the removal of all particles and organisms down to .45µm. This creates a visually appealing wine, but also removes much of the yeasts that turned the wine into alcohol. Proponents of natural wine generally prefer to keep the living agents there, as the wine will keep evolving and changing over time. It also helps the wine age longer and gives it more depth than when those particles are removed. The same goes for fining and other clarification techniques.
How Do Natural Winemakers Remove Sediment?
Most natural winemakers use the process of racking (or soutirage if you’re fancy and/or French) to get the larger pieces of sediment out of the wines. It allows the winemaker to move the wine from one barrel or vat to another using gravity, instead of pumping it out. This removed a lot of the sediment, without introducing another material to the wine.
Is There A Way I Should Drink Unfiltered Wine?
We love natural, unfiltered wines. That said, we’d still prefer to not have a bunch of sediment floating around in our glass. There’s a couple different ways you can avoid sediment while enjoying your unfiltered wine:
Leave it standing up for a while pouring it
Letting gravity do the work is one way to handle sediment in your wine. If you leave the bottle upright for an hour or so, you’ll likely avoid most of the sediment in the glass.
Decanting the wine gives you a couple opportunities to keep sediment out. First, pour the wine slowly to minimize the amount of sediment that passes from the bottle to the decanter. Let it settle for a few minutes, then slowly pour from the decanter to your glass. When you pour from bottle to decanter and decanter to glass, don’t turn either completely upside-down - that’s a sure way to get sediment from an unfiltered wine into your glass.
Is Wine Sediment Dangerous?
Ultimately, tartrate, lees, and other particles that are you in your wine are not dangerous. The reason conventional winemakers do this is because the consumers don't like the way it looks, not for any specific health or wellness reason! If you finish a glass and see something in your glass, don’t worry! It’s all natural.
Where Can I Buy Unfiltered Wine?
Your favorite local wine store should be able to point you in the direction of wines they carry that are unfiltered.
If you're looking for a selection of unfiltered, natural wines delivered in the volume and frequency of your choice, check out our Natural Wine Club!
We've also got wines by the bottle. Here are some of our favorite unfiltered wines:
Flor de la Mata - Bodega Vinessens: Warning - this is a pretty crazy wine! See the image above of the sediment. It is fermented on its skins in clay amphora then remains on the skins in the amphora for two years under the cap of the flor. Similar to a fino/manzanilla sherry style.
Weiss - Nibiru - Whole bunch pressed. Frühroter Veltliner, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Chardonnay, Weissburgunder, Gelber Muskateller. Fermented in a big oak barrel. On the fine lees until bottling.
Valpolicella - Il Monte Caro - This entry-level wine from Il Monte Caro offers incredible value for the price tag. Made of a blend of Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella grapes and aged in stainless steel. A medium-body, high-acid wine that's not what you'd expect from this classic wine region. Serve slightly chilled with food like chicken, salmon, or even burgers.