Wine Words: Sediment

published Jun 11, 2012
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Many wine drinkers have come across little solid particles in their wine at some time. Is the wine flawed? And are they harmful? What are they? No, the wine is not flawed and they are not harmful. Sediments are natural deposits thrown by the wine over time in the bottle.

Solid particles in your wine glass or bottle are known as sediment. However, most wines that are destined for early drinking do not throw sediment. Thanks to modern, high tech winemaking, and processes such as clarification, fining and filtration, most everyday wines are so crystal clear and squeaky clean that you are very unlikely to throw sediment.

Sediment in a wine is actually a sign of a fine wine, a wine that has been minimally processed pre-bottling, and one that has already spent some time in bottle. Wines throw different types of sediment. Both red and white wines throw tartrates (insoluble particles from the grapes themselves) in the form of tiny crystals. Red wines also throw sediment derived from tannin. Aged vintage Port and older Bordeaux wine will always have sediment.

While sediment is not in anyway harmful, it is not pleasant to drink a mouthful of grit. The solution is easy. Simply leave the bottle upright for a few hours before you plan to serve the wine, to allow the particles to settle to the bottom. Then serve slowly and carefully, so as not to disturb the particles at the bottom. Decanting the wine is an easy way to avoid getting sediment in your glass. Alternatively you can strain the wine through a fine muslin cloth.

The main thing to note is that sediment is a good thing, a sign of a fine wine, careful handling and minimal processing.

Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.

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