The joy of wine drinking is full of surprises. If you’ve ever poured a bottle of wine and found some unexpected gritty material in your glass, it’s natural to suspect that something’s amiss. However, there’s no need to spill the rest of your wine down the drain. What you’ve encountered is merely sediment, and though it may look out of place, we promise there’s nothing wrong with your wine! This article will explain everything you need to know about sediment.
What is Sediment?
While relatively rare, some bottles of wine contain sediment – a deposit of solid material derived from dead yeast cells (lees), remaining grape matter like pulp, skins (tannin), and seeds, as well as compounds, including those which form from tartaric acid. Wines cellared over long periods of time will also develop innocuous tartrate crystals that look clear or purple, depending on the color of the wine. Consuming sediment will not hurt you, but some people feel that removing it will enhance the experience of a wine.
What are Filtered Wines?
Thanks to the innovations of modern winemaking, most bottles produced today go through a filtering process to remove all non-liquid matter. There are two main ways to filter wine, depending on the objectives of the winemaker. The first allows the wine to permeate through a selected material in order to collect larger elements. The second involves straining the wine through a finer sieve in order to catch any smaller particles not desired in the finished wine. Some producers may decide not to filter because they feel this will detract from the authenticity of their wines.
Which Wines are Most Likely to Contain Sediment?
Bottles of wine produced for short-term drinking usually don’t contain deposits of sediment because they are thoroughly filtered, but those built for long-term cellaring may not be filtered or may develop sediment over time. When dealing with older bottles, especially premium reds and fortified wines like Port, it’s probably safe to assume that they will include at least a small amount of sediment.
How Can I Avoid Getting Sediment in my Glass?
When you suspect that a bottle of wine may have some sediment in it, there are a few steps you can take to avoid drinking it. If you have time before serving, stand any bottle that has been kept on its side upright as long as possible in order to let the sediment slowly sink to the bottom, or punt, of the bottle. Once this has occurred, your best option is to decant, which will help you separate the sediment from the rest of the wine. In order to do this, keep the bottle between yourself and a light source, such as a candle or cell phone light, so you can clearly see the sediment inside. Next, carefully pour the contents of the bottle into a receptacle, commonly referred to as a “decanter.” The sediment should remain inside the bottle, but the wine is now in the decanter – ready to enjoy! If you prefer, feel free to rinse the sediment out of the bottle, then use a funnel to slowly pour the wine back in.