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Dear Dr. Vinny,
We have a nice cellar and store the wine properly. But a couple bottles recently were nice and clear on opening, vacuum-corked overnight and finished the next evening, but we noticed the wine looked a bit cloudy. What is the cause? Or was it perhaps a bit cloudy at the start and we did not notice? Does this mean it is over the hill or spoiled?
—Pete S., Sparta, Tenn.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I’m sure your wine is fine, and cloudiness is no indication that a wine has gone bad. As you said, the wine may have been cloudy to begin with—most wines start out cloudy, and some winemakers like to bottle their wine unfiltered and unfined.
Your bottles might have been older wines that had thrown some sediment as a byproduct of their aging. By pulling them out of your cellar and pouring some glasses, you might have disturbed the sediment—the solid bits of the wine that are typically in suspension in a bottle—making the wine cloudy. There’s nothing harmful about drinking some sediment, but it can make the wine a bit gritty and unpleasant. That’s a good reason to look into decanting, in which you separate the wine from its sediment before serving.
Finally, if you kept your opened wines in the refrigerator overnight, there’s another type of sediment that you might notice, but it tends to look more like rock candy than like cloudy sediment. That’s tartaric acid, a natural byproduct of winemaking. It’s sensitive to cold temperatures, and when chilled, it can drop out of the wine in the form of tartrate crystals, which never dissolve back into the liquid. Many vintners actually chill their wines down, using a process called cold stabilization, to remove these crystals for cosmetic reasons.
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