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Dear Dr. Vinny,
What is the proper etiquette when you pour a wine that you didn’t realize had sediment? “Oh my! I’m sorry! Let me ...”
—Blair C., St. Joseph, Mo.
Sediment is harmless. If it’s in a young wine, it’s usually just a byproduct of winemaking, possibly because the winemaker chose to not fine or filter the wine. Sediment is also typical in older wines, which is why we usually talk about decanting them. The only reason people want to avoid sediment is because it can be gritty and make a wine glass all gunky.
I really don’t sweat sediment. Sure, it can show up in reds when you’re not thinking about it, so it’s always good to be careful when you’re getting to the end of the bottle (or the bottom of the decanter), which is where sludgy sediment usually ends up. These days, wine bottles can be so heavy I don’t always know when I’m coming to the end of the bottle. Sometimes a wine you expect to have sediment doesn’t, and one you don’t expect to does. I think most wine lovers understand this.
If you’re serving a friend at home or a patron in a restaurant and you accidentally pour a glass full of sediment, I’d say “Oh my! I didn’t realize this wine was throwing so much sediment.” (That’s how the cool kids refer to it—“throwing sediment.”)
What happens next depends on the situation at hand. If you’re in a restaurant and a wine by the glass was ordered, offer to get a new glass. If it’s from the bottom of a bottle of wine the patrons ordered (or brought in themselves), you could offer to take the glass away, and out of sight you could pour it off its sediment into a decanter and then into a fresh glass, leaving as much gunk behind as possible.
If I’m at home when it happens, I might offer to take the glass myself, or just pour it into a fresh glass, skipping the decanter in between because, ugh, cleaning decanters. After a while, the sediment will settle in your glass and you can just drink around it.
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