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Snooth User: Diego Andrés Díaz

Sediment in a relatively young wine

Posted by Diego Andrés Díaz, Jul 16, 2013.

Hi Fellow Snoothers. Recently I drank a bottle of red wine from a satellite apellation from Bordeaux. It was powerful, very alcoholic and not very subtle. But after I finish the first cup I noticed a lot of sediment in the shoulder of the bottle. That seems weird to me, since this wine was from the 2010 vintage. Is this common? Or  Is this the outcome of a bad vinification?

Replies

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Reply by EMark, Jul 16, 2013.

I, too, have seen sediment on "relatively young" red wines.  This goes way past my knowledge, but I would suspect that it happens mostly with wines that are unfined/unfiltered.

This sounds like a question for Gregt.

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Reply by zufrieden, Jul 20, 2013.

More and more, I find the tendency of a red wine to throw sediment at a relatively young age more pronounced than in the past (say 30 years ago).  For example, the many powerful, pigmented reds from South Australia and New South Wales often throw a surprisingly heavy sediment after less than three years of bottle aging.

Since the cases I mention are drawn from reputable and moderately expensive producers, I find it hard to believe that improper fining, clarification or filtration are the culprits.  There seems to be a connection, rather, to the overall strength of the wine - with many examples exceeding 16% alcohol by volume.  But I confess to not having really investigated the nuts and bolts of this phenomenon.  Also, some "quality" producers are reluctant to use fining agents, so you may just have to get used to that purple "gunk" early on in the aging process.

On the other hand, if your wine is of modest provenance but has some pretense to quality (such as the Cotes-de-Bordeaux displayed above), it may be that the clarification of the wine was inadequate - particularly for an above average vintage such as 2010.  I have not as yet done so, but you might try asking the producer directly.  Most such wines seem to survive nicely for 5 years in the bottle - unless truly pedestrian in quality.  But many enterprises of every description today seem challenged by competency; speaking personally, it has become necessary to double check the quality of every product and service I receive - even the service from tax agencies which, I regret to inform you, are just as competency challenged as winemakers.

Anyway, I suspect that modern, more fruit-forward and (thus) highly pigmented reds may just throw a sediment earlier than in prior years.  Money drives the world today (as perhaps it always has) so haste in production is not unheard of.  

You can always wait for GregT to reply with a more technical answer.  Where is that guy anyway?

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Reply by jtryka, Jul 21, 2013.

I just opened a bottle of 2008 vintage tonight with some sediment, so this is a timely question.  I'm interested to hear what the more knowledgeable folks think.

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Reply by zufrieden, Jul 28, 2013.

Get GregT to chime in once he returns from when he has sought out his peripatetic urges.

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Reply by JenniferT, Jul 28, 2013.

I've definitely seen sediment in young wine before...I just wish I could remember which ones. I would really love to know if there is a connection with the alcohol content.

Maybe the wines was intentionally less filtered? Maybe the sediment is actually tartrate crystals?

Guess I'll stay tuned....    :)

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Reply by outthere, Jul 28, 2013.

With unfiltered wines there will be a lot of bottle variation when it comes to sediment. The wine off the bottom of the tank at bottling time will have more lees and sediment dropout than that taken from the full tank.

Alcohol content has nothing to do with sediment.

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Reply by JenniferT, Jul 28, 2013.

Hmmm, I couldn't imagine how alcohol would have played into sedimentation rate....but hey, I don't really assume much at this point. :) 

So such excess sediment would then be considered to be unrelated to the quantity of the wine? Is there any advantage to leaving it in there?  I know that some sediment precipitates naturally as wines age, but that sediment would be different than what we see here in young wines. I guess this is just from lack of filtration?

I went through my notes and found a really cheap 2010 Tempranillo (Vinos Coloman Pedroteno). It really threw off a lot of sediment. The wine didn't even justify it's low price, incidentally. 

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Reply by gregt, Jul 29, 2013.

Sediment isn't unrelated to the quantity of the wine, as for a given wine, more wine will give you more sediment.

there's all kinds of stuff in wine though - especially dead yeast cells and tiny pieces of grapes, seeds, leaves, stems, MOG and whatever, as well as different things that have appeared during chemical reactions in the bottle and things that have just precipitated like tartrate crystals.

A lot of winemakers, esp in the US and esp the larger ones who make mass quantities of wine, remove as much of that stuff as possible because customers like clear wine and they often think cloudy wine is flawed. Moreover, some of that stuff may actually spoil the wine if it isn't stored well, so any supermarket wine is going to be filtered and fined and maybe cold-stabilized to eliminate some of the tartrates, etc.

Other people think that heavy filtering and fining strips the wine of character because all of those things may add to the complexity of the aromas and flavors over time. I guess it's like orange juice. Tropicana was able to make it taste fresh - they flash pasturized and flash froze it and customers liked it but somehow didn't think it was "natural". So the company added the pulp back in. Now customers are happy. A glass of juice + a spoonful of pulp = natural. A glass of juice sans pulp = unnatural. And that pulp probably comes from a completely different orange grove.

People have been fining wine for centuries. Filtering is a more recent phenomenon. Some winemakers don't do either and then they don't sulfur either and you get these nice chemistry experiments in wine bottles. But you pretty much have to drink those at the winery. Lapierre for example, in Beaujolais, was one of those and people said he  made "natural" wine. Except that the stuff shipped to the US got sulfured - he's not stupid. The wines are going to be on a rocking ship and in ports and on warm trucks and the customers are going to end up with fizzy, stinky, spoiled wine if it isn't stabilized somehow.

In any event, the sediment won't hurt you. If you don't like it, drink classic old Rioja Gran Reservas. Those are racked and left in barrels and all the sediment has pretty much fallen out by the time they're bottled. Usually they're fined a bit, but not filtered.

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Reply by edwilley3, Jul 29, 2013.

I've never seen that much sediment on the shoulders of a bottle this young. Very curious.

But I am in the camp of folks who don't care if a wine has sediment. Friends and I had some outstanding wines yesterday and decided to polish off every drop of the excellent juice, sediment included. Bring it on. :)

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Reply by Diego Andrés Díaz, Jul 30, 2013.

 

Thanks to all of you for your comments. I don't have any problem with sediments per se. Until now I thought that only old wines could throw sediments, and find these in a three old years bottle just seems odd to me. But you learn a lot when things don't go as it was intended.
 
The sediments, the fining, the filtration, and their effects in the wines, by the way, seem a great issue in winemaking nowadays. Some people, among them Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker, feel  that excesive fining and filtration may take some interest features away from wines. Meanwhile, Hugh Johnson says it's a necessary process in order to please the modern drinkers.
 
According to your personal experience, in which side of this debate are you, fellow Snoothers?
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Reply by gregt, Jul 30, 2013.

It's one of those things that you can't really debate. You can say absolutely no fining/filtering and that's one side of the debate. On the other, you can allow it. Once you allow it, who knows what "excessive" means? So everyone will agree that "excessive" something or another may not be good, but since nobody knows what they're agreeing to, and since everyone has a different standard, it's pointless.

Personally, I don't care one way or another from an aesthetic standpoint. I just don't want my wine to become a chemistry experiment in a bottle.

Also note that Hugh Johnson has an interest in a Tokaj property and the others do not. He has to be OK with some kind of sediment removal because that wine is full of stuff otherwise. Also, many of the local winemakers there don't want to associate with the unclean and corrupt winemaking of the communist years.

 

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Reply by EMark, Jul 31, 2013.

I'm pretty ambiguous about the whole thing.  I imagine that at least 90% of the wine that I drink is fined/filtered--and it may be closer to 99%.  I have also had wines that are downright murky that have been perfectly fine (OK, that was an unfortunate choice of words.), and chrystal clear wines that have been disappointing.  I'm OK with a visual appraisal of a glass of wine, but it does not outweigh the palate appraisal.  I feel that way about most foodstuffs--e.g., tomatoes, zuchinis, salmon fillets, roasted chickens. Here is another analogy.  I can hate the stage sets or the costumes for a perfomance of "Der Fliegende Hollander" but still have a wonderful time at the opera.  OK, more than likely I'll never notice the stage sets or costumes, I'll just get the report from Mrs. EMark, afterwards.

Regarding the argument that fining/filtering (excessive or not) has a negative effect on the quality of the wine, unfortunately, I really don't think my palate has the sensitivity to tell the difference.  I'm OK with Jancis Robinson or Robert Parker saying so.  Their livlihoods pretty much require that they have to separate themselves from me.

So, my go forward plan is to continue to ignore such information on labels as I make future purchase decisions.

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Reply by Juanky1989, Sep 5, 2013.

It is basically because the winemaker didn't filtered it.

It is not a flaw.

So many producers believe that the filtration can harm the wine and its character


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