Should I Care About Sediment

A few days ago, I had a craving for Ratatouille.  Not because the movie was on but I wanted to use up some of the produce I had in the fridge.  So using up some squash, eggplant, sun dried tomatoes and some other produce; I cooked a really good rendition of the dish.  I needed some white wine for the recipe but decided to go and open up a red instead.  The ratatouille had a good amount of tomatoes in it so I wanted something a little bit bolder to serve.  I chose Beringer’s The Waymaker 2014 blend from Paso Robles.  Great wine and it paired really well with the dish for a number of reasons.

I just had a glass of the wine so I decided to store it.  I gassed it using Private Preserve Wine Preserver (www.privatepreserve.com).  If you have never seen this before, it’s awesome.  The preserver is a can of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and argon gas which are completely inert and harmless to wine.  When you are done with the bottle, you shoot a 1 second burst into the bottle and then reseal the bottle with the cork.  The gas sinks to the bottom on the surface of the wine and prevents oxygen from touching the surface.  Oxygen has a nasty tendency to take great wine and change it to vinegar.  By using this, you prevent that from happening and the Preserver can be used multiple times.  By the way, if you get one of the preserver cans, do not freak out when you pick it up since it’s exceptionally light.

Two days later after a good day of writing, I wanted a glass of wine.  I pulled the Waymaker bottle from the fridge and stopped.  On the shoulder of the inside of the bottle is a big film of sediment.  First thought I had was:

Wow, how did I not see that in the bottle or in my glass the first time? 

I’m hoping that you will be able to see it in the picture.  There is a lot of it.  Second question that popped in my mind is:

Ok, what do I do now knowing there’s sediment in this wine?

Let me take a moment to talk about sediment.  Sediment is particles left over after the wine has been made.  Typically, its particles of the grape and dead yeast cells left over from the wine making process.   This is normal but most of the time, the buyer will never see this in their wine.  Most wines are filtered to get them crystal clear to be placed in the bottle.

There are a few reasons why you may find sediment still in a bottle after you purchase it.

  • It can be from the wine not being filtered completely. Some winemakers do not filter their wines but do a process called fining.  This is adding in a product, usually egg whites lightly whipped into a barrel.  These float on top of the wine until the proteins are cooked.  When this happens, these proteins fall to the bottom of the wine barrel capturing lots of the fine particles in the wine.  The cleaner wine is removed gently and bottled.  Notice that I said cleaner.  The process does not remove all of the particles so some will get into the bottle.
  • If the wine is older, it can be the pigments breaking down in the bottle. Red wine has anthocyanins which is the pigment that gives it its red color.  Over time, some of the pigmentation can break down and help form sediment.
  • The wine could be marked unfiltered. Unfiltered wine is gaining popularity.  The wine is left in cold storage for a period.  This allows tartrate crystals to form and these are called wine diamonds (see my article from earlier entitled Sensory Evaluation –Visuals).  It also allows for the larger particles to sink to the bottom of the tank.  The cleaner wine is removed and then bottled.  Note that this wine will still have particles that will form sediment.

Ok so what can I do to remove it?

There are a few things that I’ve learned over my years as a sommelier.  First of all, sediment is safe to consume.  It will just give you a gritty mouthfeel which is not pleasant but harmless.  Knowing this, you have a few options to remove it:

 

  • You can filter the wine into another vessel. I have in my arsenal some really fine mesh filters that I can use for this purpose.  However, a coffee filter will do the exact same thing, is cheaper and you probably have some on hand.
  • You can lay the bottle on its side for a period of time. This allows the sediment to fall to the bottom and then by gentle pouring, the sediment will stay in the bottle as you pour.
  • You can perform a formal decant of the bottle using candles. This method involves pouring the bottle with the neck of the bottle over a candle.  You will be able to see through the neck as you gently pour the wine into another vessel.  When you see sediment getting ready to come out of the bottle, you would stop pouring and drink the clean wine in the second vessel.  I love this method but it’s time consuming and involves some equipment (plus having a candle on hand just for this).

Summary

While as I eat my ratatouille (which was very tasty by the way), I’m holding a glass of the Waymaker.  As I look at the glass in my hand, I’m reminded of one sad fact that recently occurred.  Georges Duboeuf, who was instrumental in the Beaujolais nouveau movement, recently passed away.  His mindset was that wine should be enjoyed with family and friends and not to worry about the little things. 

 

Today, I take that motto to heart.  I raised my glass thanking both God and him for this blessing and then took a lovely sip.  And tasted a bit of sediment.  Nope, I did not worry about removing the sediment.  Life is too short to worry about digestive roughage.  It’s more important to enjoy what we have today and not sweat the small stuff.

 

RIP Georges.

 

@artofthepair