Ever Wonder? - What's that Stuff at the Bottom of Your Wine Glass?

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Have you ever taken that last sip of wine only to find a nasty surprise either at the bottom of your glass or in your mouth? Sediment! It can be a very unpleasant discovery. But, luckily, it’s nothing to be worried about.

Sediment is a natural bi-product of the wine making process.

Wines are made from the juice of grapes. And, the skins of the grapes. And the seeds. And sometimes the stems. So, there are actually a lot of solids that are involved in wine making. That’s why, in some cases, you get some ugly particles in your wine glass.

It doesn’t just happen with red wines. White wines are susceptible too.

There’s a lot of chemistry involved in for formation of various types of sediment in wine. But, keeping it simple, these solids in your glass are mostly filtered out at the winery and are just microscopic when they leave the winery in the bottle.

But, age and temperature then act upon these microscopic particles to form the stuff you see in your wine glass.

Next time, I’ll get into a bit more detail on this topic. But, for now, don’t worry. This sediment is not harmful to consume. Cheers!

Ever Wonder Why People Look So Closely at Their Glass of Wine?

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You see it a lot. As soon as the wine is poured in the glass, the first thing someone will do is raise the glass and look at the wine. But why do this you may ask?

In a past blog we examined the "Five S's of Wine Tasting" that include See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip and Swallow.  So, let's focus on "See." You'll find that a lot can be learned from just looking at the wine in the glass.

One thing that can quickly be detected by looking at your wine are flaws.  One flaw is oxidation. It can be noted by dis-colorization of the wine and is easily spotted if you know what you're look for. Wines take on brown hues with age. Whites can become golden to almost orange. Reds will show these brown hues around the edges of the glass. Usually, a white wine that is showing brown hues is too old. But, with a red wine, it may simply be a visual demonstration that the wine has become a bit oxidized with age. This is not necessarily a flaw but it could be a warning sign before you continue through the Five S's.

Another thing you might see in your glass is sediment. If you see small particles in the wine or sticking to the side of the glass, it indicates that the wine is either unfiltered or has developed some sediment in the bottle during the aging process.  Sediment itself is not a flaw but it's typically an unpleasant sensation in your mouth when you get a bunch of it. This can easily be fixed at home by filtering the bottle before drinking or, if you've ordered the wine at a restaurant, you can request another bottle or to have the bottle filtered.

You can also learn a bit about the wine's body by looking at it. But, we'll save that for next time. Until then, cheers!

What to Do About Sediment in Wine

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Have you ever gotten to that last sip of a glass of wine only to get a mouth-full of sediment? Instead of savoring that last sip, you end up spitting it out. An unpleasant way to finish.  And that's what recently happened to me as shown in the photo. But it doesn't have to go that way.

As discussed last time, lees (dead yeast cells and bits of grape seeds and solids) are natural in the wine making process and often desirable to be left in the wine during fermenting or aging.  This process is most common in red wines. Some wine makers will then filter out these solids (fining or racking), but others prefer to leave them in the wine as it's bottled to continue to add flavor.

There are several ways to avoid getting a mouth full of these particles in your glass of wine.

The first way is try to keep the solids in the bottle and not in your glass. If the bottle has been standing still and upright for a couple of days, the solids will have naturally fallen to the bottom of the bottle. As long as you are careful to not stir them up while opening the bottle and are gently tipping the bottle while pouring, the sediment should stay in the bottom of the bottle. But why take the risk.

The most dependable way is to do your own filtering before serving. There are several inexpensive devices on the market for doing this. The best one is a combination filter/aerator funnel. You simple hold this funnel above your decanter (or any other suitable container) and pour the wine through.  It has a micro-fine filter built-in that traps all those undesirable particles while allowing all the wine to pass through. As the wine exits the funnel, it gets aerated (exposed to air) which will usually help a young red wine. You'll then find all those undesirable particles trapped in the bottom of the funnel.  Not lurking in your wine glass.

While sediment is not harmful if consumed, it does significantly detract from a nice glass of wine.  So, filter and forget! Cheers!