Diatomaceous Earth and Wine: The Perfect Pairing


Diatomaceous Earth and Wine

It’s August, so wine enthusiasts know what that means: it’s wine crush time! Every year around this time, vineyards make the important call to harvest the grapes needed to make the wine. It’s a delicate and sometimes unpredictable process because one bad day of weather can be the difference between a good harvest and a bad one. Fortunately for the vintners, once they have the grapes in hand, the results can be predictable, like when they choose to use diatomaceous earth to filter their wine. Learn why DE and wine make the perfect pairing.

Why Is Wine Filtered?

The choice to filter wine depends greatly on the flavor profile and texture desired. Some varieties of red wine are not filtered, allowing the wine to absorb off-aromas and flavors. When filtered, wine can look and taste more polished. Plus, it improves the stability of the wine, preventing it from spoiling prematurely. Filtration is often used to remove the following:

  • Tartrate crystals: Potassium bitartrate crystals are commonly found in wine because grapes contain potassium and tartaric acid. In white wine, it looks like little glass shards. In red wine, it looks like residual color or pieces of oak/wood. The crystals have a gritty texture.
  • Yeast and bacteria: These are caused by insufficient filtration or yeast/bacterial growth post-bottling. Some vintners like to leave the wine unfiltered, letting residual yeast lees add to the wine texture. 
  • Fining agents: Some fining agents used when clarifying are derived from egg, fish, gelatine, or milk. Residual fining agents can sometimes be found in wine in small amounts.

Why Vinters Filter Wine with Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth for Filtration

Diatomaceous earth is the naturally occurring fossilized remains of diatoms—single-celled aquatic algae. This near-pure sedimentary deposit consists almost entirely of silica. It is a popular filtration medium across many industries because of its unique shape. The diatoms have a wide variety of shapes and a honeycomb-like structure—which you’d need a microscope to see. the packing of the small diatoms is irregular and creates a complex matrix with very high porosity. This allows the filter media to both remove very small particles and extend the flow rate of the material being filtered.

For wine filtration, the pores of diatomaceous earth within and between the cell walls are so small, they trap proteins, tartrate crystals, yeast and bacteria, and other suspended solids from liquids. This leaves your wine cleaner and clearer with drastically reduced solids and contaminant levels. Vintners use diatomaceous earth for wine filtration alone, or it’s used as the second step in the filtering process.

When comparing diatomaceous earth for filtration, the 4200 grade sits perfectly in the middle of Dicalite’s industry-leading fast filter aid grades, specifically, between Dicalite’s 4200 and 5000 grades. In 2019, Dicalite’s 4200 “fast grade” represented the second-highest-ranking product at ~ 12% of total tonnage sold, trailing only the dominance of Dicalite’s Speedplus grade.

The Benefits of Diatomaceous Earth for Wine Filtration

  • Mechanical, Not Chemical. Using a filter media like diatomaceous earth for filtration ensures the process is mechanical, not chemical in nature. When it comes to filtering food and drinks, this is especially important so customers can feel confident in the product they are consuming and the flavor profile isn’t impacted.
  • Consistent Product. This high-grade diatomaceous earth is mined from the deposit at our Burney, California location and is a direct-run product, ensuring Dicalite 4200 is more consistent on our customers’ filters and requires less adjustment due to DE variations. This allows the customer to focus efforts on process variations without concern for the additional variations from filter aid.
  • Allergen-Free and Vegan. Good filtration practices ensure minimal residual protein remains in the final wine, at amounts not associated with adverse reactions in consumers who have food allergies. All Dicalite diatomaceous earth products–including 4200–do not contain milk, lactose, egg, fish, gelatin which ensures vintners can make wines suitable to all palate, including vegans.
  • Environmentally Friendly. Diatomaceous earth is both beneficial and safe for the environment. Diatoms will grow in almost any environment that combines water and sunlight, allowing them to be found in both fresh and saltwater. In fact, biologists consider them one of the most important groups of basic organisms; all other aquatic life to some degree depends on them.

Choose Dicalite Management Group for Your Wine Filtration Needs and Beyond

Whether you are a vintner looking to filter wine or you have another filtration need, our multi-mineral offering of diatomaceous earth, perlite, and vermiculite ensures we have the right product for your application. The sales and technical services team at Dicalite Management Group work closely together to help meet your exact needs. Call us today at 866-728-3303 to get a free sample.

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