I've been reading about bentonite fining in my wine and would like to know what is the downside of using this stuff? I understand what it does, but was thinking - if there is no downside then I should use it in every wine I make. What is your response to that, please!
Commercial wineries routinely make bentonite fining additions to the wine right after the fermentation. It is used at this time because it is effective in taking out large amounts of solids fairly quickly. It speeds up the clearing process.
Bentonite additions to a wine will not only take the bulk of the yeast out, but it will also take out other protein based particles such as tannin, color pigmentation and other pulp-related materials. So much so, that one might say it is too good.
For this reason one must be careful not to use more bentonite fining than is necessary to get the job done. Using too much bentonite in the wine can result in a decrease in body, color and overall character of the wine. This is the potential downside.
Fortunately, bentonite fining is efficient enough that it will do the job before threatening dosages come into play. Follow recommended dosages and you will have not have a problem. And yes, we recommend using it on any fresh fruit wine.
The bentonite fining we sell comes with detailed directions and a recommended dosage that is considered conservative. If these directions are followed and the recommended dosage is adhered to, your wine will not be negatively affected in any way.
While bentonite is effective in removing a lot of particles quickly, there are times when it will not remove the last little bit that is required to bring a polish to your wine. If you discover that a single bentonite fining addition was unable to add a bright color to the wine, then I would suggest that you go to another fining agent for a second treatment.
So in short, yes it's not a bad idea to automatically make bentonite addition to your wines right after fermentation. There is little to no downside in doing so. Just be aware that it is so effective that there are limitations to how much you'll want to use. Stick to the recommended dosages and your wine will be fine.
Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.