Check out the new, mobile-friendly WineSpectator.com!
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. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Why do only red wines have sediment?
—Shyam C., Kozhikode, India
It’s true that sediment is more likely to occur in red wines than in whites, but white wines can sometimes leave sediment, and whites are also more likely to leave tartrate crystals, which are a different kind of deposit. Both sediment and tartrates are harmless, but people avoid them because their texture can be unpleasant.
I’ve had a lot of sediment questions lately, but to briefly review, most sediment—particularly in young wines—comes from leftover bits of grapes, grape seeds and dead yeast cells that are a normal byproduct of winemaking. But red and white wines are typically made using different methods, and red winemaking simply lends itself to more sediment than white.
In typical red winemaking, crushed grapes and their juice are fermented together, while white wines are usually just made from the juice of the wine. You can think of the smushed-up grapes like a tea bag that “steeps” longer in red wines, while the whites usually get much less contact with those solids. And since those solids are where sediment comes from, it follows that whites will have less sediment in the end.
Separating wine from these grape solids comes later, through racking, fining or filtering, though sometimes a winemaker will choose to bottle a wine without fining or filtering. While there are some terrific unfiltered white wines, I think that most wine lovers expect their whites to be clear, for cosmetic reasons.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
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.
Passionate about wine? Wine Spectator magazine is looking for an enthusiastic copy editor in the New York office.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions
New! Ratings Flash | New! Unfiltered