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01.03.2011

Vinography Loves Sediment In Wine. You Should, Too.

new_bottle.jpgWhile many are celebrating (even fawning) over the new wine bottle design by chef Martín Berasategui that hit the news today, I'm bemoaning the fact that it solves a problem that didn't need solving.

This new bottle design, which is indeed quite clever, introduces a sharp indentation towards the bottom of the bottle that would (in theory) prevent any sediment that was in the bottom of the bottle from being poured into the wine as the bottle neared empty.

The efficacy of the design in the real world will likely be less than perfect, especially when much sediment accumulates in the shoulder of a bottle that has been stored horizontally, and rarely has time to settle to the bottom before being served to someone. Furthermore, much sediment is so fine that, once jostled, it goes into suspension in the wine.

But those realities aren't my reason for suggesting that we needed this new bottle about as much as we need another new reality TV show. No, I'm upset at the fact that people seem to think that sediment in wine is something that needs to be eliminated.

I'm here to tell you that sediment is a good thing. In fact, it's not just a good thing, it's a great thing!

I love sediment. I quiver with delight when I pull a cork out of a bottle to find the bottom of it encrusted with crystals, or dripping with a muddy purple muck. I thrill to see my wine poured into a glass cloudy with a fine haze of suspended particles. I lust after bottles with dark blotchy chunks adhering to the lowest spot where the bottle was in contact with the shelf for many months.

You people who think you need wine without sediment need to get your heads screwed on straight.

Sediment is a sign of many good things. First and foremost, it is a likely sign that a wine has not been filtered or fined to oblivion. These processes strip things from the wine, and while sometimes that can be good (especially if those things would cause the wine to spoil) most of the time it's unnecessary and (in my opinion) damaging to the complexity and personality of the wine. Unfined and unfiltered wines taste more honest, and more interesting, all things considered. Of course, they're not inherently better, and no lack of fining or filtering makes a bad wine good. But given the choice, I'd always rather have my wines unfined and unfiltered.

Sediment, along with the tartaric acid crystals that sometimes form on the cork or in the wine, can also be a product of aging, and should be celebrated and relished as a signifier of this wonderful process. These chunky bits, as I like to call them, are as natural as the wine itself, and while I don't deliberately eat them with a spoon, or shake up my bottles to make them extra cloudy, I have no problem consuming them, and you shouldn't either.

Wine, when made well, is a natural product and should be appreciated as such. I don't like my orange juice pasteurized to oblivion, and or my apple juice filtered to crystal clarity. And I don't need no stinking fancy bottle to keep my wine from showing a bit of the natural processes that made it, thank you very much.

Let's hear it for chunky wine!

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.