Wine offers any who are passionate about learning more a portal into another world. It is one of history, appreciation, dreams and class. Over ten years since I was absorbed into this realm and the journey has been wonderful. During that time many have come along for the ride in varying degrees and many questions have been answered. One such question, and a variation of it, seems to come up more than others:

When I open a bottle of wine I sometimes see that small pieces of cork have broken off into the wine, will this harm the wine? Also, on the bottom of the cork there are sugar crystals that sometimes form, is this bad?

In both instances my answer will be the same, as neither the cork fragments not the crystals will cause any harm to the quality of the wine. There are some people that believe that both objects cause a change in the wine; however nothing could be further from the truth.

Think of it this way, the cork has been in constant contact with the wine for years (if stored correctly), so a few more minutes in the glass will not hurt it. More likely than not you will fish the flotsam out, this is where your pinky is the perfect tool to use, or you can drink it. Either way, it will not harm your wine.

As for the sugar crystals, they may look like rock candy, but the crystals clinging to your cork are not sugar at all. They are tartrate crystals, a byproduct of tartaric acid which is found in wine. They are completely harmless and have no odor or taste; however they do offer a gritty quality when consumed. This is just one of many reasons why it is beneficial to decant your wine.

Some mass-produced/marketed wines go through the process of “cold-stabilization” to eliminate this occurrence. By exposing wine to near freezing temperatures, the producers can cause the crystals to form and remove them before bottling. Most middle and higher end wines do not go through this process.

So the next time you see something that looks natural in your glass besides the wine (i.e. – cork, crystals, sediment, etc.) fear not. Making and aging wine is a process that causes many chemical reactions over time. I would almost be worried if you didn’t see anything!

Categories: Wine & Spirits

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