Monday, February 11, 2013

Wine Making Additives - Part Two Of A Multipart Series

Thanks for visiting to learn about home wine making.    This is the second part of my multi-part series on wine making additives.   If you wish to read part one, the here is the link:

Wine Making Additives, Part 2


In this installment, I will be discussing Pectic Enzyme and Fining agents. 

UPDATE: Please check my new wine making website for more detail on wine making.   How To Make Homemade Wine
Pectic Enzyme

All fruit has pectin.  Some fruits have much more than others. Apples or Black Berries, for instance are very high in Pectin.  Pectin is desirable when making Jams and Jellies.   It is what makes the jam thicken when sugar is added to it and cooked down.   While pectin is desirable in making jam is not in making wine.   Pectin can cause your wine to be cloudy.

This is where pectic enzyme comes in.  I recommend Pectic Enzyme whenever you are making wine from fresh fruit. Pectic Enzyme is added to the juice prior to the beginning of fermentation.  This will enhance the clarification process that will come later, when fermentation is complete. The pectic enzyme breaks down the pectin cells that can leave a wine with a permanent milky appearance that is also known as pectin haze.

To use pectic enzyme in your wine making, add an 1/8 teaspoon of pectic enzyme powder for each gallon of juice, before fermentation.

Fining Agents 

In this section, I will discuss some of the fining agents used in winemaking.   Fining agents are used to help clarify the wine making it clear, without haze.    I will be discussing Bentonite, Sparkolid, Chitosan, Isinglass, Kieselsol, Gelatin, Siligel, Liquigel, Egg Whites, etc.   For each of these, clearing takes about two weeks.


Bentonite is a type of clay.  As a clarifier, it is used to remove fine, undesirable particles from a finished wine.  It works because Bentonite is negatively charged.   Like a magnet, it attracts the positively charged particles that are suspended in the wine.   These particles stick to the Bentonite, and then the Bentonite sinks to the bottom of the carboy.   You can then transfer the wine out of the carboy into another carboy, being careful not to transfer the sediment with the Bentonite. 

When using Bentonite, many people who make wine from juices and fresh fruit use it after fermentation.  Many kit wines, however, use it on the first day of fermentation.   In fact, every wine I have made from kits use it on the first day.  They reason for this is very interesting.  

From what I understand, when adding the Bentonite on the first day, most of it will be suspended in the wine for a few hours, then settle to the bottom of the juice.  When the yeast starts to get active in the fermentation process, the juice will circulate the Bentonite back into the wine, as the CO2 is being produced in the fermentation. Some call this active fermentation boiling, as the juice starts bubbling.   So, in a nutshell, the yeast’s activities will re-circulate the Bentonite over and over again…

When using Bentonite, it is important to mix it very well into a slurry.  You want it to be finely mixed throughout the liquid, not just clump on the bottom.

Chitosan, Isinglass and Kieselsol

Most fining agents stick to particles in the wine, and then sink to the bottom.   You would then transfer the wine off of the sediment, leaving behind the sediment that contains the fining agent and the particles that it removed.   The process of transferring the wine is called “Racking”.   
Chitosan is a shellfish derivative.  It is a very popular fining agent these days...   Winexpert, the largest manufacture of wine kits, uses Chitosan for their red wines and Isinglass for their white wines.    Isinglass acts in a similar way to Chitosan, but is a bit gentler on the wine.

Some companies use a two part fining mixture with Chitosan and Kieselsol.   The Kieselsol is added first and stirred thoroughly with the wine.   Like Bentonite, it attracts the particles in the wine to it using opposite charges, like magnets.    Then, the Chitosan is added to the wine, where it binds to the Kieselsol, and sinks to the bottom.

Now, some folks are allergic to shellfish.   Winexpert says that it is perfectly safe to use Chitosan, since it has no proteins in it, and it is the proteins that people are allergic to.   I have spoken to them on the phone and they said that in Canada, it is used as part of their water filtration system for the public water supply.   That may be well and good, and I am sure they are being truthful, but I am not willing to take that chance that someone with a shellfish allergy will not react to the wine.   For that reason, I don’t use the Chitosan, even if it comes in the kits I am making.


Sparkoloid is a clearing agent that I have had some great success with.   All you do is dissolve a tablespoon of Sparkoloid powder with a cup of boiling water.   Stir well and make sure it is complete dissolved.   Let it cool, and then stir it into your wine.

Siligel and Liquigel

Some kits come with these for clearing agents.  Siligel is the same this is Kieselsol.   Liquigel is Gelatin.   You use these the same way you would use the Chitosan and Kieselsol.    You put the Kieselsol in the wine first, stir very well, then add the Liquigel (Gelatin ).   Like with the Chitosan/Kiesolsol method, the order you put the clearing agents in is very important.

This comes standard with the wine kits from Mosti Mondiale.   Their wine kits are excellent and I have made wonderful wines with these kits.   So wonderful, that I usually cry when I get to the last bottle.

Egg Whites

Some folks use egg whites for fining.   Using egg whites will also remove some tannins.  The dosage is ½ an egg white for 5-6 gallons with a pinch of salt.     I, personally don’t use egg whites for fining.   I can’t tell you how effective egg whites are for fining, but it does make a great breakfast.

Clearing without any of these agents…

Your wine will clear on its own without any of these things.    It will take much longer, though.     You can let it sit, carefully racking off the sediment, over and over again for a long period of time.    Keeping the wine cool during this process will aid in clarification, as well.

Of course, you can follow the directions that come with your wine kit, without knowing what you are doing and why you are doing it.   You will probably make wonderful wine simply by following the directions exactly.   I want to know exactly what is going into my wine, just like I want to know what is going into my cooking.   Like with cooking, if you want to customize something, understanding what you are doing and why you are doing it is very helpful.

I sure hope you enjoyed this installment of my wine additive articles.    Wine is as important of a part of any Italian meal as the main course.     Enjoy your wine!   Enjoy your food!

Keep checking back for my next update on wine making additives.  Thanks for making part of your success in Italian Cooking, Wine Making and Organic Gardening.


  1. Hi I am wanting to make a wine from vino Italiano Cabernet Sauvignon but the kit does not have instructions. I was wondering if you have a PDF you could send me or help me out. The kit came with all in ec-1118, stabilizer, bentonite, kieselsol, chitosan, wine juice, corks and sleeves. Any advice?

  2. I have a copy of the instructions in a PDF, but I have no way to email it to you without your email address.

    This is a like I found online that has the instructions.... Check out my videos on YouTube for step by step instructions, as I am making an Italian Red Vino Italiano kit called Tuscany Rosso Magnifico... You might find them helpful