Have you ever opened a bottle of wine and seen crystals around the cork?
Have you ever opened a bottle of wine, poured yourself a glass and thought, WHAT is THAT in my wine?
I get questions in real life, on Twitter and Facebook about this all of the time. "Rachel!!! What is this in my wine?!?!?!" There are a few reasons why you might see gunk in your wine or hanging out on your cork.
Although crystals on your cork or “gunk” in your wine are unattractive, it doesn’t mean the wine is bad. Sea salt like crystals on the cork of your wine, usually a white wine, are actually potassium tartrate crystals, a by-product of the natural tartaric acid in wine grapes. These crystals are innocent and harmless and will not affect the taste of your wine. They also might appear in the bottom of the wine bottle as well.
In red wines, you sometimes might notice finer, brown gunk. This is actually sediment or could even been lees, which are just yeast deposits left in the wine after fermentation and aging. Sediment forming in a bottle of red wine is actually a good sign; indicating it is in good condition and aging well. However, if there is a lot of sediment and the wine has a cloudy appearance, it might indicate the wine has spoiled. Giving the wine a sniff and a quick taste will help you determine whether or not a wine has spoiled.
What should you do if you run into these types of “gunk” in your wine? If there are tartrate crystals around the cork of your wine, simply remove the cork and wipe around the inside and outside of the neck of the bottle. If the tartrate crystals are in the bottom of the white wine, try to avoid pouring them into your glass. While not harmful, their texture is not pleasant. If you have sediment in your red wine, the best thing to do is decant the wine by slowly pouring the wine from the bottle into a decanter, leaving the sediment in the bottle. How do you decant wine? I’ll discuss that topic next week!