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WineCountry.it: All you want to know about Italian wine: WineCountry.it Article

Sleuthing Out What's In Wine (Part four of four)
Dan Berger - February 10, 2005

Part 12 34

Sturgeon bladder in your bubbly?
You'd be surprised at the stuff that's paid a visit to what you're drinking.

The quick and dirty on what is, or what has been, in your wine

Q. What are the glasslike crystals that sometimes cling to a freshly pulled cork and settle in the bottom of my glass? Are they harmful?
A. These crystals, called tartrates, (cream of tartar) are harmless. Tartrate crystals, a natural by-product of fermentation, can be removed by winemakers, who chill the wine (called cold stabilization) and filter out the crystals. Some believe that filtration diminishes the wine's character, so they leave the wine unfiltered. If you don't like the wine's appearance, decant it before service.

Q.

What about that sludge in the bottom of my glass?

A. Wine sediment is made up of naturally occurring solids that are harmless but can taste bitter. Like tartrate crystals, sediment sometimes remains in bottled wine because the winemaker has chosen not to fine it. Again, decanting removes sediment.

Q. What is decanting?
A.
  Wine Decanter  
  Wine Decanter  
It's a method of separating wine from any solid matter that survives the winemaking process. Decanting also aerates the wine, opening up the aromas and flavors. To decant, leave the unopened bottle upright overnight to let the sediment settle to the bottom. Before serving, remove the capsule and cork from the bottle and slowly pour the wine into another vessel, until sediment is visible in the neck of the bottle (it's helpful to use a candle or flashlight to view the neck). When solid matter appears in the neck, stop pouring and discard what's left in the bottle.

Q.

I'm a vegan; how will I know if animal products like egg whites, fish bladders or gelatin have been used to make a particular wine?

A. While only trace amounts, if any, of these additions appear in the finished wine, strict vegetarians and those with religious concerns still want to know if animal products were used in production. Wines labeled "unfined" will not have any animal products in them. However, not all unfined wines say so on the label, and fined wines generally don't state that on the label, either. Currently, the only way to know is to call the winery and ask whether the wine was fined and with which product.

Q. Are there non-animal fining agents?
A. Yes, including bentonite, a type of clay, and polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP), which is similar to ground-up nylon.

Q.

What are sulfites and why are they in wine?

A. Sulfites are sulfur compounds found naturally on fresh grapes and in all wines; winemakers can also add them to wines to inhibit the growth of mold and vinegar-causing bacteria, and to prevent oxidation. Sulfites play an important role in preserving wine's freshness, yet are also a health concern to those allergic or sensitive to them. Wines without added sulfites are usually labeled as such (wineries are allowed to call a wine sulfite-free if the levels are under 10 parts per million).
Read more about sulfites.

Dan Berger is a freelance wine writer in Sonoma County.
Originally Published onSan Francisco Chronicle 2004


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