What is meant by ‘racking’ a wine?
I have often heard winemakers say the wine has not been filtered, but only ‘racked’. Sometimes they add that the wine was ‘fined’. What’s this all about? These are all ways of clarifying wines by removing the suspended particles, particularly yeast (the lees). Once the lees have settled at the bottom of a barrel or tank, the wine can be gently pumped out from a level higher than that of the lees. This way the lees are left lying at the bottom of the tank and the clear wine is drawn off. Fining is done by adding certain substances (like egg white) to the wine. The egg white spreads across the surface of the wine and then slowly sinks to the bottom of the tank, taking all the suspended particles down with it. The clear wine can then be drawn off and bottled. These processes are considered preferable to filtration, in which the wine is pumped under pressure through a series of paper filters to remove any sediment. Filtration sometimes removes some of the flavours of the wine, and can leave a slight ‘cardboard’ taste in the wine unless it is very carefully done.