What If my Wine is Cloudy?

Question from Gordon: Does it matter if a great tasting wine is cloudy? 

Reply: Hi, Gordon. Thanks for writing! 

My philosophy has always been that if it tastes good it is good. Clarity is the ideal, so haziness or cloudiness always makes my antennae go up – there could be some kind of microbiological naughtiness going on in there. But, I have to say I’ve pulled the cork on some pretty scary looking wines that were absolutely delicious. And, even if something’s gone wrong the wine won’t hurt you. It might offend you, though. If it tastes weird, take it back.

Others feel less tolerant, thinking that even if it tastes fine, is it as good as it was meant to be? They would recommend taking it back to the retailer and getting a replacement bottle. The bottle should be nearly full if you’re going to return it 😉 It’s a way of finding out if it was just that one bottle or if it’s just the nature of the wine. Unless, of course, you get a bottle from the same case. It could be that there’s batch variation and that retailer received the cloudy batch…

Possible causes of cloudiness or lack of clarity? 

Some varieties resist clarification techniques the wine maker has at hand. And, some wine makers don’t like to process the wine too much for fear of taking away the angels with the devils. They feel that filtration or fining strip the wine of its character. I remember one very famous wine writer, who has an ax to grind when it comes to filtration, referring to a very expensive bottle of Cabernet as “eviscerated!”  

If the wine is high in protein and it gets too warm, it can flocculate. It looks like cloud-like wisps floating through the bottle. If the winery tests the wine for heat stability before bottling they can address the problem by adding a fining agent, like bentonite, to clean it up.

If you see creamy-looking crystals at the bottom of the bottle or on the end of the cork, those are harmless tartrate (cream of tartar) crystals. Again, if the winery tests the wine for cold stability, they can take care of the problem before the wine is bottled.  

Some varieties readily form a crust on the bottle, usually at the shoulder, on the end of the cork or the punt. Syrah always seems to leave sludge whether it’s filtered or not. But there’s nothing wrong with the wine. 

Well – that’s a long answer to a short question! I drank a lot of coffee this morning…

Thanks, again, for writing! Cheers! Nancy

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “What If my Wine is Cloudy?

  1. sam

    Cool, good to know.Is the same true of home made wine? I noticed some of my later bottles picked up a bit of that sludge left behind in the barrel. Can I apply the same rules you have above — if it tastes good, keep it?Thanks!

  2. Nancy Hawks Miller

    Thanks for commenting. Yup! It's normal for red wine to throw sediment over time in the barrel or bottle. Enjoy!

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