Wine is subject to trends and techniques. The trend of unfiltered wine is blowing up in the wine industry right now, although it's not anything new. Unfiltered wine is natural, authentic, maybe even healthy. So, what’s the difference between filtered and filtered wine?

First it's important to understand what goes on technically between filtered and unfiltered wine so you can really understand the differences between the two. As a winemaker, I know first hand that there’s more to this subject than meets the eye.

Alright, here’s the lowdown on why wine is filtered. After wine finishes the fermentation process, it’s full of floating yeast and sediment. Before bottling, the yeast particles and microbes are separated from the wine before bottling using filters. If yeast is still present in a bottled wine that has any sweetness, it will re-ferment in the bottle. So, we use filters to prevent this from occurring. It also leaves the wine crystal clear, so it is beautiful in the glass.

Unfiltered Wines

So, we can assume then, that unfiltered wine skips this filtration step, and you would be correct. But remember only wines that have no sugar content can be left unfiltered, so that would mean dry reds and whites, usually only Chardonnay. Typically these wines are still rather clear. This is because red wines are in tanks or barrels much longer than white wine are, so the yeast and any other floating sediment have the time to be able to naturally settle via gravity. The wine is then moved out of one vessel into another, leaving behind the sediment on the bottom. Here’s the deal, unfiltered wines can be risky business, as the risk of spoilage is significantly greater than not filtering, especially when it comes to sweet wines. This is not to say that unfiltered wines are bad, actually, many are great. But, for a small family business, we typically can't afford to take the risk.

At Latah Creek, we do use several different types of filters. For our reds, after the wine has settled for many months, we utilize a large bulk filter that will remove most of the particles, but will not strip the wine of any of it's amazing flavor. For our reds, we use the same filter immediately after fermentation is finished. We then use two additional filters, one a few days prior to bottling, which eliminates any remaining yeast and prepares the wine to go through the final filter. The final filter is a system that hooks up to our bottling line, so that we can run the wine through the sterile filter straight into the sterile bottling line, assuring there is no contamination as it makes it way into the bottle.

So, unfiltered wine could be more open and natural but, it really depends on the unfiltered wine. I think both techniques each have their place and can coexist. I would try both styles so you can create your own personal preference and opinion. Maybe a blind tasting is in order!