Ask Wine Wizard

Bottle Sediments


Joe Bramble — Greenwood, Indiana asks,

Can I, or should I, re-rack my nine bottles of fresh-picked blackberry wine due to settling sediment? I do have the wine bottles with the pointed raised centers. Any help would be most useful.


It can be wrenching for a winemaker to look at his or her bottles developing a sediment over time. Many fruits, especially those high in pectin, proteins, or phenols are especially prone to sedimentation during aging. It’s often just too hard to wait long enough for everything to precipitate out of solution (months, sometimes years) before bottling. While we can attack and pre-empt a lot of post-bottle sediment with fining during the bulk-aging process, it’s not always a guarantee of future behavior. Add in a pectin-rich fruit like blackberry and indeed sediment over time is going to be more likely.

Should you open up your precious nine bottles, pour the clearer wine off the sediment and re-bottle? I would say it depends on how soon you are anticipating enjoying your bottles. If you’re going to serve them all at a big party next week I would say go ahead and decant and re-cork. Then you can proudly serve them with no visual issues or (gasp) globs of gooey gunk in your guests’ glasses.

On the contrary, if this is a wine you only open once a year, I would perhaps do one bottle now and wait to see how it keeps aging in another month or two. You see, every time you open a bottle of wine you’re exposing it to air and ambient organisms like the yeast and bacteria that float around in our everyday environment. If there is any residual sugar in your wine you’re risking inoculating and starting a possible refermentation, which could leave you with even worse sediment than before!

Since most sediments are just visual problems, I recommend decanting shortly before serving. That way you can enjoy your wine at its freshest, with no risk of refermentation or spoilage before enjoying.

Response by Alison Crowe.