To filter or not too filter?


I was once told by a very well known and respected wine judge and consultant that unfiltered wines were rubbish and were faulty! This is a very blinkered attitude and it is certainly not my opinion. However, unfiltered wines do start life with a disadvantage: they look messy in the glass, especially when compared with the beauty of a polished ruby coloured pinot glistening in the glass. So why produce ‘unfiltered’ wines at all? There are flavour & aroma reasons put forward and some marketing opportunities taken.¬†Unfiltered wines are thought to retain more aroma and flavour as well as complexity as filtering may remove some components and is seen as extra handling. There is no clear support for this in the scientific literature and a number of controlled studies with sensory evaluations have been conducted to attempt to test this assertion. Another potential issue with not filtering is that the wine may still contain bacteria which could grow and spoil the wine stored in the bottle particularly if cellared for longer term ageing. Nevertheless, there are still a number of proponents, typically winemakers who strive to ensure that their wines are as natural as possible. This is where marketing comes into play – natural wines have a specific and growing appeal. My personal opinion is ‘viva la difference’. I have an open mind and appreciate that ‘unfiltered wines’ have their place. In 2002, I made an unfiltered pinot that was a great hit with a number of customers. It was a novelty and one excited customer told me he had found a leaf in his glass! This was the first and last unfiltered wine I made.

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About paul

Wine writer and retired vigneron. Passionate about pinot noir with 15 + years experience growing, making and marketing pinot noir. Extensive tasting experience including advanced wine tasting qualifications and international seminars.

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