Ask Wine Wizard

Red Wine Sediment


Michael Scheerer — Hunt Valley, Maryland asks,

Some of my red wines leave a coating on the entire inside of the bottle after a period of aging — it looks like somebody painted the entire inside of the bottle with an even coat of dark, wine-colored paint all the way around and right up to the cork! The coating does not typically come off as sediment in the glass and does not seem to have an effect on clarity or taste. I make my red wine from whole grapes, sometimes with a pre-fermentation cold soak and often with extended skin contact before pressing. I do not add egg whites and usually do not fine or filter my reds. Sometimes I barrel age, but I have not noticed any pattern as to the grape variety or how my wines are treated in regards to this condition. I typically age my reds at least five years from the vintage date (I am still drinking a few from the 90s) and I cellar them in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. What is this stuff, and is there a simple fix that will not affect the aroma, taste, or age-ability?

I applaud you for your patience in aging your bottled wines that long! Would you be surprised to know that in the US most bottles of wine are consumed within 72 hours of purchase? Well, perhaps they just don’t have the love and appreciation for a finely-aged wine that you do. I would also add it’s probably a little different when it’s your own. I always tend to curate my own library a little differently than something I pick up at the grocery store on the way home from work. What you’re experiencing is the precipitation over time of all sorts of complex tannins and colored compounds. They came from the grape skins and seeds and have ended up in your nice bottles instead of at the bottom of a barrel where they should be. Sure, most red wines will throw some sediment over time. Red wines just have so many “guts” (tannins, anthocyanins, tartrate crystals) that naturally form larger molecules and will settle at the bottom of or against the sides of our containers. So how to get away
Response by Alison Crowe.