Sometimes you may notice a “sludge-like” residue in wine in the bottle or at the bottom of your glass. Yikes!
What is it? Will it harm me? Does it mean wine is bad?
First, it probably is distillate of elements in the wine. Normal, not a problem at all.
Second, it will not harm you, although it might taste a little bitter if you drink or chew the crystals.
Third, it does not indicate bad wine, and often signals good wine.
Sediment occurs in wine that is filtered and unfiltered, but more often in unfiltered wine. Since filtering takes out nuances of taste and polish, many wine lovers consider some sediment a good thing.
Compounds in wine settle over time. Depending on how wine is stored and shipped, sediment is either undisturbed and lingers on the bottom or side of the bottle (decanting can easily separate it from your wine), or it can be mixed up in the bottle, making the wine cloudy and gritty (decanting doesn’t help here).
Dead yeast cells from fermentation are earliest things to settle. They can add marvelous flavors, but usually are taken care of in the winery before final bottling.
In older bottles, the sediment is crystals of tartrates—white in whites, red in reds. Red wines also produce pigmented tannins, a result of phenolic polymerization. Makers of wines intended to age for years deliberately leave tartrates and phenolics in the wine to produces unique bouquet and exquisite deliciousness of older wines.
So, bottles with sediments are by no means signs of failure, more often of quality. Enjoy.
• Monchhof Estate Riesling. Juicy peaches, creamy, sweet, good acid and minerality. German. $18
• Mothers Milk Shiraz. Dark, ripe, full, juicy, chewy tannins. Australia. $20
• Nelms Road Merlot. Ripe fruits, cherries, vanilla. Soft and silky. Washington. $21
• Elk Cove Pinot Noir. Smoke, spice, cherry, cranberry. Easy going enjoyment. Oregon. $27
• Meeker Merlot “Handprint.” Dark color, effusive cherry nose, toasty oak. California. $40