I am about to age Cabernet Sauvignon in a six-gallon barrel. Should I filter the wine before it goes into the barrel or after it comes out before bottling?
John S. — VA
Thanks for the great question. I don’t think this question has ever been asked or answered on our blog before, so here we go…
You want your homemade wine to go through the barrel-aging process before filtering. But having said this, it is important to understand that you want to give the wine some time before going into the barrel. You don’t want it to go straight in to the wine barrel the moment the fermentation completes. Give time for the solids to settle out, first. This might only take a few days or it could be a couple of weeks. Regardless, give the wine whatever time it needs.
The goal is to keep the bulk of the sediment from getting into the wine barrel. Most of the sediment at this stage will be comprised of dead yeast cells. Typically, this is something you do not want your wine resting on while in the barrel. The result could be something called autolysis. This is a process that leads to a bitter-nut to metallic taste in the resulting wine.
The reason you want to filter your wine after barrel-aging is because of what happens while the wine is in the barrel. There are a lot of processes that go on. One of the more significant ones is tannin precipitation. As tannin is leached from the wood of the barrel, it sets off a chain-reaction, of sorts, that causes the excessive tannins that are normally in a young wine to solidify and drop out as sediment. This is one of the key factors in reducing the harshness of a wine.
There are many other organic process that go on during aging besides this that can contribute to other precipitates as well. With this in mind, it only makes sense to filter the homemade wine after the barrel-aging and not before. Why filter the wine when there is more sediment on the way.
John, I hope this answers your question. Just remember to also give your wine plenty of time before going into the barrel and then plenty of time while its in there. You can filter your homemade wine after the barrel-aging is complete.
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.