With the help of our Director of Sommology Leslie Sbrocco, we’re uncorking the mystery behind sediment in wine. Learn more about what sediment is, where it comes from, and what you may want to do about it!
Oh, hello! What’s that in my glass?
It’s wine time. Yes! You’re looking forward to enjoying a much-awaited glass when you start pouring and see “stuff” that looks like miniscule purple or clear crystals. WHAT IS THAT? Has the wine gone bad?
Have no fear…the wine is safe to sip! What you’re seeing in the glass and bottle is something called sediment. Natural byproducts of the winemaking process, sediments are completely normal and natural in wine.
Let’s break this down…
The most common type of sediment in red wine is inky and dark. It looks like small purple crystals lining the side of the bottle, the cork, or the bottom of your glass. This type of sediment comes from several sources including red grape skins which contain color pigments. These pigments are responsible for imparting the telltale red-wine colors to wine (they’re also beneficial antioxidants).
During the winemaking process, grapes are harvested then gently crushed into tanks or barrels. With red wine, the skins are left to soak with the juice. Why? Think about the inside flesh of green and red grapes – it’s typically clear. To gain the pretty-in-purple hue of red wine, it needs to soak with the skins to gain color. It’s much like making tea. The longer the tea steeps with water, the darker the liquid becomes.
There’s also another thing in red wine (and some whites) called tannins. These are natural preservatives in the stems, skins and seeds of grapes that impart a mouth-puckering astringency on your cheeks. Tannins help wines age and allow them to pair beautifully with food.
Over the course of time aging in the bottle, the sediment from tannins and grape skins will get heavier and no longer float gracefully and invisibly through the wine. Instead, they become visible in the bottle or glass. This is one of the reasons wines often become ‘smoother’ on the palate as they age.
What about white wine? Does it get sediment? Yes, it shares in the sediment love, too.
To keep the golden hue of most white wines, the grape skins are separated from the skins early in the process. That’s one reason white wine usually has less sediment than reds. One of the most common sediment types in whites can show up when you refrigerate the wine. Tartrate crystals, which look like little diamonds, tend to form into solids when wine is chilled. Again, they’re harmless, though you probably don’t want to drink them.
One of the most important types of sediment comes from the process that turns grape juice into wine. The key here is yeast. Yeast is added to the crushed grapes (or it can live naturally on grape skins) to begin fermentation. When the grape clusters are crushed, the yeast goes into action and converts the sugars in grape juice into alcohol. Once they’ve done their job, the yeasts die in a happy state of intoxication and sink to the bottom of the tank or barrel. In winemaking terms, this is called the lees. Lees add complexity to wine. Winemakers often choose to leave the lees in the barrels or tanks and stir them to gain more layers of flavor (especially with white wines).
Just the good stuff, guaranteed.
Ultimately, the vast majority of wines are fined and filtered to remove most sediment and make the wines shelf stable and enjoyable to drink. At Traveling Vineyard, we pride ourselves on offering just the good stuff. That’s right…we’re committed to what we call our Good Stuff Guarantee. We value the high standards set by the wine industry, and never take shortcuts. Every wine goes through multiple rounds of independent lab testing and is made with the utmost care and precision to assure a quality product. We also strive to work with growers who practice responsible and sustainable farming and winemaking, which results in a product that naturally may have sediment.
You may wonder if some wines are more prone to seeing this than others. Red wines, especially full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, Malbec and Merlot, tend to throw more sediment than lighter reds such as Pinot Noir or Tempranillo. Wines like Chardonnay and other full- bodied whites might have more lees, while light whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, which are kept cool, might have more tartrate crystals.
All in all, we make our wines simply and with love. Like you, we believe that what goes into our bodies matters—from how our wines are grown to how they’re made—and that’s why we’re committed to giving you just the good stuff, guaranteed.
What you can (but don’t have to) do about it
When you do come across sediment in your wine, you certainly don’t have to do anything at all. But if you prefer, the best way to remove any sediment is to keep the bottle standing straight for a few hours (or days with big reds) and let the sediment settle to the bottom before consuming. Then, get a decanter and slowly pour wine into the decanter making sure to stop pouring once you see the sediment. If you don’t have a decanter, feel free to try using a pitcher.
Ready to step up your wine game? Try filtering your wine in one simple step by using our Magic Decanter Aerator instead. This little life-saver provides all of the benefits of decanting your wine, but quickly and without having to plan ahead. For another quick hack, a coffee filter can also be used if your bottle contains a lot of sediment. Simply pour the wine through the filter, and you should capture any floating sediment.
Now that you know sediment in wine is naturally part of quality winemaking, go ahead and enjoy that glass from Traveling Vineyard. It’s the good stuff. We guarantee it.
Sample our award-winning, sustainable wines by hosting your own free wine tasting! Book with a Wine Guide today: http://tvwin.es/winewithfriends