Sediment in wine is totally harmless, though a bit bitter
The last couple bottles of wine I have pulled the cork on have had a fair amount of sediment in them. To be truthful, I am not a big fan of sediment, although it isn’t harmful in any way and can often be a sign of a wine’s age, and some even say, its quality.
The sediment forms during a wine’s fermentation and aging process and is technically known as “lees.” Wine sediments are the particles that settle in the bottom of any wine container like a bottle, vat tank or barrel. Typically, sediment is made up of dead yeast cells, fragments of grape pulp and skin, twigs and seeds that settle out of new wine. To get rid of the sediment, typically the wine is transferred to another container (called racking) leaving the sediment in the first container. As it is bottled, it is filtered again.
Sometimes, winemakers think leaving the sediment in the wine through bottling adds to the flavor and texture of a wine. They actually bottle the wine without filtering it. Some wineries state on its wine labels the wine is “unfiltered.” This is something you might want to look for when you are purchasing a bottle of wine. It will give you direction on decanting and filtering.
- RELATED: Everything you need to know about wine decanting, May 23
Sediments in today’s bottled wines are unusual as most winemakers go to great lengths to ensure wines are free of sediment — especially wines made to be consumed in the first few years after bottling (such as less expensive wines used for wine-by-the-glass programs in restaurants).
Sediment in the wine bottle can also be a byproduct of the wine’s aging process. The tiny particles begin to attract to each other and keep getting larger and eventually get large enough they fall to the bottom of the bottle or, depending how the bottle is stored, cling to the bottle’s sides.
- RELATED: How to open a wine bottle in spite of a broken cork, March 12
As I mentioned earlier, sediment is completely harmless and in some cases will taste a little bitter if you drink or chew it. Personally, I find it unpleasant to drink and tend to treat it the same way I do when I get a bone in my mouth when I eat fish.
- RELATED: How to keep wine fresh after opening it, Sept. 24
Because I don’t like to taste the sediment in my wines, I tend to decant and strain most wines that I drink that are over five years old. If you want a refresher course about decanting wine, you can check out my posts about decanting. Bottles of wine with sediments are by no means bad bottles. In fact, I find them to be just the opposite…they typically turn out to be good quality bottles.
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Until next week,