I shook a bottle of wine with sediment and now it's cloudy. Is it ruined?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I shook a bottle of wine that had sediment on the bottom and now it’s cloudy. Will the sediment fall back to the bottom? Is the wine still drinkable?

—Susan, Georgia

Dear Susan,

Sediment is a natural byproduct of winemaking comprising very tiny bits of grape solids, spent yeast cells, crystal-like tartrates and phenolic molecules called polymers that fall out of suspension as wine ages. Some of those polymers are responsible for pigment, which is why the color can fade in older wines.

Luckily, sediment is not harmful if you drink it, but it can be unpleasant and gritty, which is why when handling older bottles of wine, wine lovers take care to avoid disturbing the sediment. Unlike pulpy orange juice, there’s no benefit in mixing the sediment into the wine (and no need to rotate bottles aging in your cellar). As you noted, shaking the bottle caused it to become cloudy, and that cloudiness would almost certainly translate into a less pleasant drinking experience.

But your wine is not ruined! Just set the bottle upright somewhere it won’t be disturbed and let time work its magic: It might take a few days or weeks, but the sediment will fall back to the bottom of the bottle. When you’re ready to open the bottle, handle it gently and keep it upright while you’re opening it. Pour the wine slowly, into a decanter if that’s an option, stopping when the sediment appears so that you don’t serve anyone a chewy glass of wine. Check out Wine Spectator’s Guide to Decanting for a closer look at decanting a wine off its sediment.

—Dr. Vinny

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