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Sterile filter vs sorbate

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Stressbaby

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I have some fruit wines which will need to be backsweetened a little bit. Due to an adverse outcome with a small batch of blackberry 2 years ago, I'm considering sterile filtering them prior to backsweetening, rather than using sorbate. Good idea or bad idea?
 

Boatboy24

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Didn't think it was cost effective for us home winemakers to sterile filter.
 

BernardSmith

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I wonder whether "sterile" filtering will not strip flavor and even some color from your wine? There's no free lunch and if the filter is small enough to hold back yeast cells I think that it may be small enough to block some of those larger molecules you may want. Then there is the factor that your wine needs to be perfectly clear to allow it to flow though those filters without the filters being blocked by all kinds of particles too small for you to notice before you pull the wine through those tiny holes...
 

Boatboy24

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I wonder whether "sterile" filtering will not strip flavor and even some color from your wine? There's no free lunch and if the filter is small enough to hold back yeast cells I think that it may be small enough to block some of those larger molecules you may want. Then there is the factor that your wine needs to be perfectly clear to allow it to flow though those filters without the filters being blocked by all kinds of particles too small for you to notice before you pull the wine through those tiny holes...
Don't commercial wineries sterile filter?
 

Scooter68

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I guess my take is that unless done perfectly and and into perfectly clean bottles it's still a gamble on top of the other issues of color and flavor stripping.
 

skeenatron

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Some commercial wineries don't filter at all, but they are rapidly becoming the odd man out. As a commercial winery we used to only sterile filter our whites, and use 2.5 micron filters for our reds. This was plate and frame filtration using filter pads made from diatomaceous earth. It was a pain in the ***, we had a lot of loss, and we needed to do another pass with .80 micron pads in order to filter out yeasts cells like brettanomyces.

I did a good amount of research on the subject personally when we began considering using a local cross flow filtration system service and found no proof that filtration had any adverse effect on sensory perception. We started using this sterile cross flow filtration (0.35 cents per gallon + few hundred dollar setup fee) system a few years ago and I am completely sold. Our loss is way, way down and to be honest, both red and white wines taste better after they go through the filter. It's amazing the impact all those tiny little solids have on the flavor. No worries about re-fermentation, spoilage, or sediment, and it's cheap.

Granted I am talking about commercial volumes here and obviously 10-15 gallons of loss per lot is an absolute deal breaker for home winemakers, but the concept is the same. Sterile filtration done right is awesome. If you can do it right for your volumes, you are golden.
 

sour_grapes

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I wonder whether "sterile" filtering will not strip flavor and even some color from your wine? There's no free lunch and if the filter is small enough to hold back yeast cells I think that it may be small enough to block some of those larger molecules you may want.
Molecules are REALLY small. From a previous thread:

I know there are a few that will disagree with me, but I filter all my wines down to 1 micron, whites and reds. Most commercial vineyards go down to almost .5 to achieve a sterile filter... I remember hearing once that flavour molecules compared to sterile filter is like throwing a ping pong ball through soccer netting. In other words flavour molecules much too small to get caught in any filter we could do at home.
Not bad, but not dramatic enough. If the "flavor molecules" are the size of a ping pong ball, the gaps in the filter would be more like the distance BETWEEN THE SOCCER GOALS (on opposite ends of the soccer pitch).
 

Johny99

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Thanks for the input skeenatron.

I've talked to our local wineries and they all sterile filter their whites. Most don't filter their reds, a choice. I'd love to be able to sterile filter whites to be able to leave a bit of sugar. If anyone figures an economical way to do that for 5 gallons, let me know!
 

skeenatron

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I hear you but why do so many commercial wineries only filter their whites and not their reds?
Half of those that claim they don't filter their reds, actually do. There is a very negative connotation that comes with filtration.

Some believe that those molecules that are responsible for flavor are attached to the solids that will be filtered out, which would strip flavor. Which is hard to prove otherwise. Some wineries just don't do it because their winemaker is old school.

At the end of the day, there is very little research done on the effects of filtration on reds. Changes in mouth feel, flavor, potential for loss and oxidation are all real concerns. With whites you just don't have a choice, it needs to be clear and you cannot allow microbes to be present with residual sugar.
 

jburtner

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Molecules are REALLY small. From a previous thread:
Sounds like we'd be turning wine into water or close to it if we had the appropriate filter.

I on the other hand would very much prefer the inverse majick trickery.

Cheers!
-johann
 

GreginND

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Don't commercial wineries sterile filter?
I only filter down to 0.8 microns. I do use sorbate and I bump my SO2 levels up to about 1.5 molecular. I've never had a problem with fermenting in the bottle.
 

sour_grapes

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I hear you but why do so many commercial wineries only filter their whites and not their reds?
This is just speculation, but maybe it is as simple as the appearance of whites suffers more from some debris than the appearance of reds does. Filtering is costs time and money, after all.
 

Johnd

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This is just speculation, but maybe it is as simple as the appearance of whites suffers more from some debris than the appearance of reds does. Filtering is costs time and money, after all.
I just finished a bottle of 2012 Bell Merlot. Got a little sediment in my mouth on the last sip, some left in the glass, couldn't care any less, but it'd be ugly in a white wine.....
 

Julie

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Stressbaby

what was the "adverse outcome" that you mentioned
 

Scooter68

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I'll bet that even the wineries that do filter their reds don't at the same level as their whites. For all those reasons discussed above. Any non-white wine going into a dark bottle isn't going to offend the vast majority of folks. When that last glass has a little 'dust' in it that's just a sign of a 'real wine.' At least that's my take on it.

If I ordered a bottle of wine while dining out, I wouldn't be bugged by that dust in a red wine especially if I didn't even notice it until the last glass was poured. On a white, that dust just sitting at the bottom would draw my attention all through the meal.
 

skeenatron

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The cool thing about the latest filtration technology (cross flow) is that it's cheap, fast, easier on the wine (one single pass to get sterile), and has insanely low loss. If you are planning on filtering reds at all, why not cross flow? You will never have to worry about brettanomyces blooms or anything other spoilage microorganis for that matter. It blows plate and frame technology out of the water.
 

grapeman

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For those with home wineries or even small commercial ones, the cross flow technology that is considered cheap by some would never work (unless you are very wealthy). A search of available small units turned up this one for an example. http://www.gwkent.com/crossflow-filter-xf-1.html
At almost 40 grand, it is well beyond my reach. Unless you have a service available to you like skeenatron I think this is beyond most peoples price range.
 
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