Decant or pour wine through a fine sieve or cheesecloth to remove sediments from the wine. To decant successfully, let the bottle sit upright for a full day. Slowly pour the wine, keeping the bottom end below a 45° angle. Once the sediment moves toward the neck of the bottle, stop pouring.
I remember enjoying my first vintage wine – a Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne. It was rich, loud, and spine-tinglingly flavorful! Already a little doleful of reaching the end of this mesmerizing wine, I was utterly taken aback when the dregs were filled with gritty sludge, aka sediments.
Rest assured, there was nothing wrong with the Barolo. Wine sediments are natural and harmless byproducts of winemaking and may even indicate a higher quality wine. However, if these fine crystals bother you, decant or filter them before serving. Here’s how:
How To Remove Sediment in Wine?
You can successfully remove sediments in wine by decanting or pouring the wine through a fine-meshed sieve or cheesecloth. You can even use a paper coffee filter when in a pinch.
Why Does Sediment Form in Wine?
Finding sediment in the dreg of your wine bottle is a simple reminder that wine is a natural product.
Sediment can be either tiny bits of the leftover grapes (tannin sediments), dead yeast cells (lees), or tartaric acid crystals (tartrates). Although harmless, they can be unappealing and affects the wine’s mouthfeel.
As wine ages, tannins and color pigments bind and form tannin polymers that fall out of the solution, which produces natural sediment.
The sediment is essentially the bits and pieces that remain in the wine after fermentation and aging. However, it can also be traces of dead yeast cells, referred to as lees. They are harmless and, in fact, add depth and complexity to the wine.
Sediments Affect More Red Wines than Whites
Sediments are more likely to affect red wines than whites. However, they can be found in both.
Red wine gets most of its flavors and aromas from the tannins in the skins. Whole crushed grapes – the pulp, juice, skins, seeds, and stems – re-crushed together when making red wine. As a result, it is prone to more particles and sediment.
In comparison, white wines are typically only made from the juice of the grapes. The wine occasionally contains sediments that look like shards of glass or rock candy. These are known as tartrate crystals.
Tartrate crystals form from the tartaric acid – a natural acid found in wine grapes – and settle out of the wine during fermentation and aging. These crystals are odorless and tasteless.
Sediments Are Not a Flaw
While you may think sediment is a wine flaw, many winemakers deliberately leave it in their wines, referring to them as “flavor savers.” Sommeliers often regard sediment as a sign of a quality bottle of wine.
Why Does My Wine Have A Lot of Sediment?
Lees and tannin sediments are almost always a well-aged red wine phenomenon. However, tartrate crystals are more common in white wines that have not been stabilized.
Here are several reasons why your wine has a lot of sediments:
1. Unstabilized White Wine
Refrigeration speeds up the formation of tartrate crystals. Because white wines are generally served chilled, they tend to have more tartrate crystals in the bottle than red wines.
2. High-Quality Aged Red Wine
A lot of sediments can even indicate that you have a superior-quality wine. The best winemakers and sommeliers oftentimes believe that less is more when intervening with wine processing, like filtering. Filtering wine removes most of the sediment; however, it strips it of its aroma, mouthfeel, and palate flavor expression.
3. Long-term Cellaring
Aged wine can also gradually form sediments from long-term cellaring. In the aging process, tannin polymers form and drop to the bottom of the bottle, creating sediments.
4. Red Wine With High Tannin Content
Sediment is mainly found in older, darker red wines with lots of tannins and pigments, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Barolo, Bordeaux, and Port.
What Should I Do If I Find Sediment in A Bottle of Wine?
While sediments are safe to drink, they have a gritty, unappealing texture that can spoil the drink. Although not a must, you can get rid of the sediments by decanting the wine by pouring it through a fine sieve or cheesecloth.
Decanting Wine to Remove Sediments
If you are a wine lover and don’t own a decanter, I highly recommend getting one! Decanters are the best method to dodge sludge. They offer some other wonderful benefits too.
Decanting wine also enhances the flavor through aeration. The oxygen allows the wine to “breathe,” which softens the tannins and expands the dormant aromas and flavors.
With some time and patience, you can decant your bottle of wine successfully without sediment particles seeping into your glass.
Here’s how to decant wine correctly:
- Ensure all the sediment settles at the bottom of the bottle before you open or decant the wine. If you store your wine horizontally, allow it to sit upright for at least 24 hours.
- Open the bottle and slowly tilt the bottle of wine toward the decanter. Aim to keep the bottom of the bottle low (below a 45° angle) to avoid disturbing the sediment.
- Slowly and steadily pour the wine into the decanter. Stop pouring once the sediment starts reaching the neck of the bottle. You can use a candle or torch to help if the bottle is too dark.
- Tilt the bottle upright to allow the sediment to settle down, and start again.
- Leave the last ounce of wine in the bottle and discard it to avoid pouring sediment into the decanter.
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When Should You Decant Wine?
Most red wines require decanting at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the wine to breathe for long enough. However, you can decant wine up to four hours before you anticipate drinking it.
While there’s little risk of over-decanting, try to enjoy or re-cork your leftover wine within 18 hours.
Use A Sieve or Cheesecloth to Remove Sediments in the Wine
I find this method a bit on the messy side. I’ve spilled way too many precious drops of wine. However, with extra precaution, it still works well.
Pour the wine through an ultra-fine sieve or several layers of cheesecloth to catch the sediments. Ensure you use a wide enough vessel to prevent spilling.
Is It Safe to Drink Wine Sediment?
Sediment is a natural, completely harmless product of winemaking. You can safely drink it but remember that the texture or mouthfeel may not be great.
What Does the Sediment in Wine Taste Like?
Tartrate crystals are odorless and flavorless. However, tannin sediments and less can have a bitter flavor.
Can You Use A Coffee Filter to Remove Sediment in Wine?
A coffee filter is an effective method to remove sediment from the wine. However, ensure you use unbleached coffee filters and rinse them first.
Sediment is a harmless and natural part of winemaking. Decant your bottle of wine to remove the gritty particles.
If you find sediment traces in your almost-empty glass, simply rinse and refill.