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Dear Dr. Vinny,
I was at a restaurant tonight and discovered a red sediment around the bottom of my glass (looked a lot like horseradish). The manager said they used "aged wines" and that it was normal for sediment to appear. I have been drinking wines for the past 40 years and have never seen or heard of that. Have I been missing something?
—Lawrence, Denville, N.J.
How’s your elbow? If you’re prone to elbow pain, you might not be in the habit of emptying out every last drop of wine from your bottles by inverting them completely. Sediment, a gunk made up of precipitated tannin and pigment molecules, is quite commonly found at the bottom of bottles of red wine. It’s harmless, but it can be unpleasant and gritty and make your wineglasses look like they have horseradish in them. In fact, a careful server can take steps to minimize the amount of sediment that ends up in the glass, perhaps by decanting the bottle.
If your elbow is fine and you haven’t noticed sediment, it’s probably the wines you’ve been drinking. If you drink mostly whites, or young red wines—especially ones that have been fined and filtered (which removes excess sediment), then I’m not that surprised sediment is unprecedented in your experience. These days, it’s fashionable to bottle wines unfined and unfiltered, so you may see it come up more. Sediment can be found in wines of any age, but you’ll almost definitely start noticing it at about the 10-year mark.
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