What Makes Wine, Fine?

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The Struggle:

My hunger for culinary knowledge comes from my early days in professional kitchens. I’ve said before that my questions about the function of ingredients would often be answered with a sarcastic tone. As if the answers to the questions were unattainable to all. Now this isn’t what all kitchens are like, as I found out years later the best chefs are also the best teachers. So when these two ingredients named kieselsol and chitosan debuted on our site I honestly had no idea what they were. I had never heard of them nor did I know what their uses were. Before I journey into learning about an ingredient that is new to me, I feel a bit of trepidation. It’s like the first time you see a “Where’s Waldo” book as a kid. The information is out there but it will take some serious searching! I take a deep breath and dive in to my research into the deep and dark question….


“How do Kieselsol and Chitosan work?” 


Creating Bonds

Spoiler alert, thanks to the internet, it’s not too difficult to find the answers to most of these questions. In the most basic sense Kieselsol and Chitosan clump solids within a liquid and help clarify said liquid. These are used to clarify mead, fruit juices, beer, hard cider, and most commonly wine. These two ingredients are also known as wine fining ingredients. But how do they work?


Kieselsol is a solution made of water and silica (silicon dioxide). Kieselsol has a negative charge and will attach to the peptides and phenolics in wine. Wait, What?! Peptides are spare proteins and amino acids from the yeast that are suspended within the liquid. These are what cause the haze within the liquid. Phenolics, well this is a much bigger topic. Phenols are what make up the complexity of wine. Everything from the mouth feel to the aromatics. There are literally 100’s of chemical compounds that float around in this realm. The ones removed during the fining process are mainly the off odors such as sulfur and astringent tasting compounds. So the kieselsol attaches itself to these negatively charged compounds. Next up, Chitosan. A positively charged solution made of chitosan,water and distilled vinegar is added. Because opposites attract the positively charged Chitosan clumps up with the kieselsol that is attached to the peptides and phenolics and drops them to the bottom of the liquid. This works extremely well and happens within minutes of being mixed. This works exceedingly well for liquids that are passed through a spinzall as the larger particles are easier to capture in the drum. As I write this there may be a way to clarify stocks and kombucha using these fining agents. So I must bid you adieu as there is testing to do… 


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