OK, I have to tell you…after one complete vintage, I’m pretty pleased with my new Buon Vino Mini-Jet overall. I’ve used it on a number of wines now at all three filtration levels with good results. I haven’t noticed any negative impact in the flavor and aroma profiles of my wines and it reduces racking frequency which helps alleviate some of the carboy-crunch I seem to always encounter when I’m moving wines. (Carboys are like women’s purses or closet space. The more space you have, the more stuff you keep, the more space you need. No matter how many carboys I buy, it seems I never have more than one to rack to and I always end up doing the dreaded (to me) rack/wash/rack/wash/rack/wash dance. It’s a battle that can’t be won… 🙂
The Mini-Jet (and it’s big brother the Super-Jet, which can filter more wine in less time) offer three filter apertures: #1 Coarse; #2 Polish; and #3 Sterile. As the apertures get tighter, the risk of damaging your wine by removing desirable characteristics like color or flavor and aroma elements increases. But if you use the right filter at the right time for the right job, you can absolutely improve your finished product.
Like every decision you make in the process of producing a batch of wine, there are trade-offs. Are you willing to give up a little color for better clarity? Are you willing to reduce the risk of off-notes by risking potential complexity? Everyone has their priorities and preferences and you’ll need to decide what kind of wine you want to make…
Generally speaking, in the past, I’d rack once off the gross lees, once off the fine lees, a third time after fining or when it seemed appropriate, and a fourth at blending or just before bottling. With the filter I’ve been getting away with three times. Depending on the wine and how quickly it’s clearing naturally, I’ll rack like normal off the gross lees, use #1 or #2 filter media at some mid-point, and #2 or #3 filter media at blending/final tweaking. The net of all this is that I reduce the number of times I expose my wine to oxidation opportunities which generally results in fresher flavors. And gets my wine bright sooner. That said, filtration is a violent thing to do to a wine. So if you choose to filter also be sure to up your patience levels and don’t be too quick to judge flavors and aromas and make adjustments too soon after beating up your wines…
A #1 Coarse filter will primarily strip out the “chunky bits” in your wine and will rarely affect your wine in a negative way if used properly. The #2 Polish filter (considered Buon Vino’s work-horse filter) provides a good balance of improved clarity with minimum risk. The #3 Sterile filter, though it’s the most aggressive and potentially damaging, also has the added benefit of removing much of the residual yeasts that remain in an unfiltered wine thus allowing you to reduce or eliminate the need for Potassium Sorbate to provide stability.
So here are some before/after pictures of my filter media (#2 “polishing” media) showing all of the crap that came out of my blueberry wine. Is there a trade off?? Well sure there is, and that’s part of the art of winemaking. Would that junk have added “character and complexity” or “off tastes” to my finished wine? Certainly it stripped some color. Was the trade-off worth it? We’ll never know for sure now. But I can tell you this…the wine is delicious!
And beautiful to look at in a glass! Wine is ultimately a multisensory experience. Everyone thinks about flavor and aroma, but clarity and color can often get overlooked. I realized that at a business dinner a few years ago. Everyone had a candle at their place setting for a lovely room ambiance. But what caught my eye were the jewel-tone colors — golds, scarlets, and garnets — dancing on the white table cloth with the flickering of the candles. Gorgeously serene. Seriously.
So while flavor and aroma, obviously, will make or break a wine, color and clarity help set the context of the wine and the drinker’s expectations — even before he or she takes the first sip. Clarity can’t make a bad wine good, but it can make a good wine excellent.
Want to know more? There’s LOTS more to know! Check here, for example, for an excellent discussion of filtration as well as a discussion of hot and cold stabilization, fining, hazes, and other factors that can affect how your wine appears to the drinker. Enjoy!