I was happily sipping my wine one evening when I choked slightly and sputtered. There was something in my wine! I was horrified when I spit out a small transparent crystal – did I nearly swallow a diamond? Did the bottle shatter? Or was this a grain of non-dissolving sea salt? Or was someone trying to poison me??? Needless to say, I panicked! Luckily, in this day and age, we don’t go calling up the police with fears of being poisoned – instead, we turn to good ol’ Google.
A quick search reassured me that what I just had was “normal” or at least wasn’t any of the many horrific possibilities that had gone through my head (somehow the safe possibilities didn’t really occur to me). In fact, one website told me that those crystals signified that the wine was of good quality (I was slightly dubious as I was pretty sure that wine had cost less than $20).
So why are there crystals?
Wine contains tartaric acid, which comes from grapes. Unfortunately, tartaric acid doesn’t completely dissolve in wine, especially when the wine is chilled. I had kept my wine chilled in the fridge for several weeks, and so some of the tartaric acid had precipitated out and formed crystals. Apparently, these crystals can afflict both red and white wines but are completely harmless and do not alter the flavor of your wine in anyway.
Why aren’t there crystals in all wines?
Apparently, wineries got so tired of people asking why there were crystals in their wine that they now put wines through a process that basically involves refrigerating the wines until the tartaric acid forms crystals and then filtering the crystals out. So the only wines that you’ll still find crystals in are old wines and wines from boutique wineries who don’t bother going through the filtration process. Of course, if you’re drinking one of those “special” wines, you can easily avoid drinking the crystals yourself by pouring the wine out gently or using a tea strainer for the last glass.
So, don’t worry – it’s not glass, stones, or poisons. It’s safe to go back to enjoying your wine now.