Sometimes commercial wineries chill their for months in the 30-degree Fahrenheit range and still get “tartrate fallout.” Even if a wine has been “cold stabilized,” as this process is called, there’s no guarantee that it won’t throw some crystals (and other sediment) as it ages.
The variables that determine how many tartrate crystals a wine will throw in its lifetime are multifold and hard to fully understand. In wines with high tartaric acid content, low temperature and high ethanol content, you’ll generally see more tartrates falling out over a long period of time. This means that the potassium bitartrate is not soluble in the wine. Since time and temperature are the two easiest parameters to control for the home winemaker, storing a wine at the lowest temperature possible (above the freezing point) for as long as possible (say, a month), will force out the greatest amount of crystals. Follow this cold stabilization by siphoning the wine off the sediment and you’ll be able to bottle a wine that will throw a minimum of sediment in the future.
Many winemakers use an old chest freezer as their “cold stabilizer” and pop jugs and carboys into it for a month or so at about 35 °F (2 °C). However, there is no “magic number” when it comes to cold stabilization. Every wine is different and everyone plays with the time and temperature parameters according to their individual equipment and situation.
For more of the Wine Wizard’s wisdom, pick up the latest issue of WineMaker, available at better winemaking retail shops and newsstand locations. Do you have a question for the All-Knowing Wine Wizard? E-mail [email protected]. The Wiz will select several questions to answer in each issue, but can’t reply to each letter personally. Sorry!