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Is wine sediment harmful?

MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: May 2, 2018

Q: I recently received a bottle of wine from 1995. I can see some dark spots in the bottle—I think it's sediment, but I don't know if the wine was stored properly. My question is: Is it safe to drink? And how will I know if it's good or not?—Endrit, Peja, Kosovo

A: Your instincts are probably correct: I imagine that you're seeing sediment through the bottle, which is perfectly natural for a red wine of that age. There is no harm in consuming it and it's perfectly safe to drink (although pretty unpleasant and can have a bitter taste). Sediment can be visible on the side of the bottle or at the bottom, depending on how the wine was stored. If you stand it upright, the sediment could slide to the bottom, but if it was stored for a long time in one position, sediment can also get stuck to the side.

Sediment accumulates in some wines no matter how they're stored and, unfortunately, there is no way to tell just by looking at a bottle if it was stored properly. The only exception is that sometimes wines that were exposed to a lot of heat or pressure might push the cork out slightly, or show signs of leaking. Even then, there is no way to tell if the wine inside is something you'd enjoy drinking. And even if a wine is stored perfectly, you just might not like older wines, and that's OK.

I hope you find an opportunity to open the bottle and find out. Before you do, you might want to check out our Decanting 101 feature—knowing that there is sediment in the bottle, you might want some advice on how to avoid getting a wineglass full of sediment.

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