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Jun 24, 2006 04:17 PM


I have been drinking Chateau St. Michelle cab (2002?) for a some time and noticed that the bottle always has sediment. Can someone explain to me why this is? Is it intentional?

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  1. In most cases, sediment in bottled wine is a side effect of aging: a deposit of tartrate crystals and/or of anthocyans, tannins, etc., produced by naturally occurring phenolic polymerization. In your case what it probably means is that Chateau St. Michelle didn't heavily filter and clarify the wine before bottling. The downside is the deposit (which, despite what many consumers think, is not a defect); the upside is usually more flavour, more potential to develop a bouquet and increased ageability.

    To deal with the deposit, all you normally need to do is set the bottle upright an hour or two before opening and pour carefully, especially toward the end. Some wines throw particularly heavy deposits (vintage Ports are notorious in that regard) and you may want to decant them into another container. This is usually done by placing a light source behind the bottle as you pour and stopping when you see the deposit enter the neck. While you end up leaving an ounce or two of wine behind, you probably wouldn't enjoy drinking the gritty slurry anyway.

    4 Replies
    1. re: carswell

      This is exactly right. You should view the sediment as a good sign: the wine wasn't filtered, which removes the sediment and some of the flavor.

      1. re: carswell

        Correct me if I am wrong but aren't the presence of Tartrates a sign that the wine has not been cold stabilized?

        1. re: Winemark

          Yes. Although cold stabilizing doesn't necessarily remove all sediment. In either case, the presence of crystals doesn't imply anything negative.

          1. re: Winemark

            Expanding on what Darren72 said, cold stabilization techniques have varying degrees of effectiveness. And the issue is complicated with red wines because tartrate and potassium ions can bind or complex with other chemical components, in particular phenols such as anthocyans, making them resistant to precipitation and reaction. As the wine ages and polymerization occurs, the complexes lose some of their capacity to hold tartaric acid, which then precipitates out. But, yes, you're basically right, and it's also worth noting that many red wines aren't cold stabilized because they aren't intended to be chilled to a low temperature (usually a prerequisite to crystal formation).