After the post on sediment in wine a few weeks ago, I got a question from Bob about haziness. Here goes:
Do the tartrates bother you? What’s your threshold for unpretty wine?
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Question from Steve: I opened a bottle of white wine and it had these shiny crystals, kind of like sugar on the cork. Is that wine okay?
Reply: Hi, Steve. Thanks for writing! Yup, it should be just fine.
A great thing about wine is that even if it’s spoiled it’s not harmful – unless you drink too much, of course! The worst thing that happens is you’re offended by the smell or taste, in which case you should take it back or dump it.
MAJOR DIGRESSION: Please don’t use bad wine for cooking. That weird flavor is what you’re adding to the dish, just like any other ingredient, and cooking it down will just concentrate the weird flavor.
So, what’s with the crystals? It’s really quite common to come across them, especially in white wine. They’re not sugar – they’re mainly composed of tartaric acid, which is a very strong acid, and the main acid found in white wine. As you see, they can also be suspended in the wine. Continue reading
Question from Stephen: I purchased a 2008 Pinot Noir from the bargain rack at a wine shop. They were selling the 2009 at full price for $66 got this for $45. Cork was in beautiful shape but wine is cloudy. What could the problem be?
Reply: I apologize for the delay in my reply. I figured the best source for the answer is the winery – but, after a few weeks, no reply from them. This is something I will never understand. A real, honest-to-goodness buyer of expensive wine wants an answer to his question and they can’t be bothered – in this market?!
So, all I can do, since I didn’t see or taste the wine is give it my best guess.
I hope it tasted good! Always remember that if it looks funky or tastes weird it can’t hurt you, so always give it a try. At this price, even though it was in the sale bin, I would have taken it back if it didn’t taste good. Of course, they won’t take it back if 3/4 of the wine is gone 😉
How hazy was it? If it was only slightly hazy and tasted good, it could be that the winemaker didn’t want to risk losing character by taking extra steps to clarify the wine. There are those who believe that fining and filtration take away from the wine and prefer bottling the wine hazy to further processing. Pinot Noir seems to be a variety that resists clarification – it’s not all that uncommon to come across a slightly cloudy bottle.
If it was big-time hazy it may have gotten too warm at some point. Protein can throw a haze when the wine warms up. It should still taste fine unless the heat was extreme or prolonged enough to damage it. Continue reading