Mailbag Monday: Crystals In My Wine?

Tartrates in wine bottle neckDear Alleigh—
I was drinking a bottle of one of my favorite wines, a Hidden Chapel Winery  St. Vincent, when I noticed crystals on the inside of the bottle?  And at the bottom of the bottle?  I decanted the wine and it seems fine, but does it affect the taste? I’ve attached pictures for you to see.

First, thanks for emailing.  The pictures were a great addition, and I appreciate you agree to them being included in my Mailbag Monday post!

The crystal-like sediments in your wine are tartrates, which are a form of tartaric acid, and they’re developed because the wine was exposed to cold temperatures.  Tartrates are harmless. In fact, at some wineries, the crystals that form on the inside of wine barrels during the wine making process are scraped off and made into cream of tartar.

Tartrates at bottom of wine bottleIt’s fairly common to find tartrates in higher end wines, particularly white ones.  Over the years, I’ve actually reviewed several wines with tartrates, although the two that come to mind—the 2007 Steak House and the 2006 Benziger Signaterra Three Blocks—were both reds.

The main point to remember is that if you see something that looks like shards of glass in your white wine or red sugar crystals in your red wine, don’t panic!  The wine isn’t flawed…you just found tartrates.  So, keep pouring that wine, clink glasses with your friends and family, and enjoy that bottle.

Cheers!
Alleigh

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