Bits in the bottle < Helpful Hints < Wine Expert | Online Wine Store | WSJwine

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Crystals in wine are not usually a problem. But there is a fundamental conflict here. Wine, naturally has bits in. Bits of grape. They are removed during the process of winemaking. But every bit removed results in some flavor being removed also. Customers generally like clear wine with no bits. You can see this puts us in a bit of a dilemma. In order to make each bottle as tasty as possible we have to risk the occasional bits. But taste the wine and you'll appreciate that the occasional 'bits' are worth it!

"There's sugar on my cork"

Is a frequent one … no, not sugar but crystals of tartar called "Weinstein" in Germany where the fine acidity accentuates its formation. They look — but do not taste — like sugar. Consumers should not be concerned. They are a sign of good quality and wines that have perfect ripeness as well as fine fruit acidity. Tartaric acid occurs naturally in all wines. It can be removed but the process also removes a lot of wine flavor so we and most conscientious winemakers avoid using it. Crystals of tartar sometimes precipitate out and settle on the glass or the cork or at the bottom, but they are harmless and tasteless. Pour carefully and rejoice in good natural wine.


Sediment in wine is never a failing. It is a sign of the courageous winemaker who refuses to de-nature his wine just because some supermarkets don't want the cost and effort of explaining sediment to their customers. Real wine is a joy. Consider … like it or not, wine is around 12% alcohol, 80% water and a tiny amount of stuff called "dry extract" which does all the flavor bit. It triggers all the romance, causes all the books to be written, the court cases to be fought, the fortunes to be lost. Remove all the water and alcohol and what do you have … well it looks like sediment. So, we are supposed to take this sediment out are we? We love old bottles of Hermitage or Châteauneuf where the whole inside of the bottle has become coated with tartar crystals … that's real wine!