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sediment in a sparkling wine?

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At a dinner out last night, I was surprised to get a good mouthful of grit in my glass of sparkling wine. Looking down, we saw a good amount of powder (the consistency and color of salt) in the bottom of the glass. We mentioned this to the waitress and she took my glass away, then brought it back saying "We think it's just sediment from the wine. But we're giving you half-off your wine." We weren't expecting a discount (I would have been fine with just getting a new glass, honestly, which she did not provide.) But my question is, could it possibly have been sediment? I have never heard of such a think w/ sparkling wine and have had perhaps a thousand bottles over the years. I assumed the riddling and disgorgement would take care of that.

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  1. We had that once with a minerally silt-like Italian sparkling from the Bonny Doone wine club.

    It may also have been dishwasher sediment in the glass, as the bubbles would release whatever sediment is in the glass. Glasses at a better place are usually hand polished before service, but usually won't remove anything from the tiny nipple at the base of a goblet or flute.

    1. Probably tartrate crystals, which sometimes form in wines after bottling, especially those subjected to quick chilling (like being stuck in an ice bucket or freezer). Totally harmless.

      7 Replies
      1. re: carswell

        We have had that happen a lot, (I'm a Champagne specialist for a retailer so I have opened and consumed a lot of bubbles) it is harmless although it can be alarming to have chunks hit your lips when you are not expecting them.

        1. re: bubbles4me

          Bubbles4me,

          I had responded to Meg's original post on another board, where this was but a small part of it.

          While have encountered tartrate crystals, in several whites (do not recal any reds, but maybe it's been the decanting, or just memory lost), I do not recall encountering them in sparklers of any sort. Her's were in an early pour, maybe first. My theory was that the effervescence might have "stirred" them up.

          Is this common in sparklers? I usually see them, when a wine has been chilled quite a lot, though several factors in the fermentation and finishing can possibly contribute to them. If you've encountered them in Champagne, what have been the circumstances, that you can trace?

          My reply to Meg was in very general terms, and I'm looking to you for some enlightenment regarding sparklers.

          Thanks,

          Hunt

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Bill,
            It is pretty common but I have to say it happens more often with wines that have been in our cold box for a long period, (few weeks) of time. I'm pretty sure it is tartrate and have always seen it as a good sign that the wine has not been filtered to death....

            1. re: bubbles4me

              Thank you. We do our share of sparklers, mostly Champagne, and have done dozens of tastings, and I had never encountered it. Yes, we do see it in some whites, and I saw it fairly often, when we lived in CO and got Winter Fed-X shipments. In AZ, we ONLY get Winter shipments!

              Appreciated,

              Hunt

          2. re: bubbles4me

            Is it odd that I never find it to be a big deal?

            Yes, I could ask for a new round of glasses, but I've never come across crystals predominant enough to evoke a major response.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              It's like biting a piece of dirt in the salad or vegetable and is off putting.

              Having to be mindful of wiping said sediment from the lips instead of enjoying the meal is an annoyance I'd rather not deal with. But everyone has their own take, and if it doesn't bother you, that's fine too.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                No not odd at all, I think a lot of people just see it as part of the "life" (if you will) of the wine. I don't wig out but as someone that once found out there was a bee in her soda can....the hard way, I tend to get skeeved out a bit when chunks hit my lips when I am not expecting them. Because of that I make it a point to inspect the glass a tad more than most.

          3. Thanks for the responses!