It’s Friday night, you sit down to relax with a nice glass of wine. You pour yourself a glass, take a sip but notice something gritty on your tongue. You spit the sandy substance onto a napkin to examine what looks like crystal shards. You instantly think something is wrong with your wine.
Don’t worry, your wine is perfectly fine. It’s only tartrates. There are three main acids found in wine grapes: malic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid. Of those three, tartaric acid is what gives wine its tartness and what creates those crystals. Tartrates are the harmless crystal deposits that separate from wines during the fermentation and aging process. Tartaric acid is what also helps maintain the wine’s PH. This acid doesn’t always stay dissolved in the wine because it is sensitive to temperature change. So placing your wine in the refrigerator will actually cause the acid to solidify and gather in the bottle. If you don’t see crystals it only means that the wine was kept at a consistent temperature keeping the acid in liquid form. So whether it’s a liquid or a solid you’re still consuming the same compound.
Seeing the tartrates in the bottom of your glass actually signifies that the wine was minimally processed. Mass produced wine is cold stabilized to ensure that the tartrates solidify a can easily be filtered out. Cold stabilization is when the wine is chilled down to near freezing temperatures. While the process removes the crystals from the wine it also impacts the flavor of the wine and its ability to be aged.
So next time you encounter tartrates at the bottom of your bottle or floating in your glass drink up and enjoy the flavor profile that has been preserved.
By Sarah Ledbetter