ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


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.

Dear Blair,

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.

—Dr. Vinny


Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories