Why are there Crystals in my Wine?

While writing one of these posts, explaining the basics of winemaking, I realized that tartrate crystals may be something strange to readers. When my daughter was visiting from New York, reading my post, she asked for clarification: “What are these crystals? Why don’t I see them in commercial wines often?” It is true that it’s mostly about appearance, I responded. 

 She wanted to investigate first hand and see if these crystals would disgust her or deter her from the wine she was drinking.

So we opened a bottle of my “Campanile Blended Red” from 2007. This blended red, aged in American oak barrel, consists of California Cabernet Sauvingon (80%), Merlot (13%) grapes, and some Teroldego grape (7%). The Teroldego grape is my daughter’s favorite, and originates near Sporminore, where the Italian part of our family has lived for centuries, and still resides today.

“There will be tartrate crystals in this wine?” My daughter asked.
“Maybe,” I said, then shrugged, “I guess we’ll find out at the end of the bottle!” I walked away to get the wine opener and thought, “If not, we’ll just open another”.

We did finish the bottle, but failed to find any crystals. I must have been very dedicated with my cold stabilization.

A few weeks later I opened another bottle and found some. I sent my daughter this photo of my Sauvignon Blanc from 2010. Those are tartrate crystals for you!


And a few weeks after that, I found that my Sauvignon Blanc from 2007, cooling in my cellar, had plenty of well-defined (rather than slushy) crystals to offer. See if you can find any of these in your commercial bottles, or, if you are lucky, in some homemade wine. To learn more about tartrate crystals, read my post on winemaking processes.


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