Wine Crunchies - Does it mean the wine is Bad?

What are those little things in my bottle of wine that look like tiny stones, crystals or even diamonds? The short answer is potassium bi-tartrate (KC4H5O6) or better known to the chefs in the house as Cream of Tartar. Really, cream of tartar is made from the sediments of grape production by partially neutralizing tartaric acid with potassium hydroxide. It is generally used to give more volume to and help stabilize beaten egg whites. Hence, you are likely to find it in bakery products or maybe your dessert, especially the frosting. In a pinch it can also be used to clean brass and copper cookware.

So now you know what they are but, is the wine good to drink? Has Aunt Sue given you another bottle of bad cheap wine? The short answer is no. The wine is fine and all you have to do is "decant" or avoid pouring the crystals into your guests' glasses and everything will be fine.

What if some crystals do make into the glass or what if my guest picks up the bottle before I have a chance to decant it? Here's your opportunity to shine (but don't show off), say the crystals have formed because the wine was made from ripe grapes, picked at the peak of their flavor and that the fermentation process was done with care i.e., longer and slower. You can also impress by saying the wine clearly has a high degree of "Weinsaure" (tartaric acid) and minerality to be able create Weinstein (wine stones). It is partly because of this acidity that the wine will taste fresh and have a longer life in the bottle.

You could go over the top and say that most inferior wines undergo cold stabilization, a process by which a wine is cooled down before it is bottled and the white flakes, "crystallized tartaric acid", are filtered out. But, as you might have guessed, this unnecessary process strips out some of the flavor and balance of the wine. So, you can eat the crunchies! Best of all you are probably drinking a great wine! Salute!

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About The Author, David Barringer