What are those crystals doing at the bottom of my #wine glass?

There’s nothing Señorita Vino loves more than a spontaneous wine education moment. Last night, I was relaxing with a glass of Pinot Noir when I noticed some debris in my wine glass. Check it out:


I know what you’re thinking. Either someone planted an illicit substance in my glass when I wasn’t watching, or I really need to work on kitchen hygiene.

What you’re looking at, chicas y chicos, are wine diamonds, or wine stones. In wine geek speak, they’re known as tartaric crystals, or tartrates. Maybe you’ve seen them before, and like a lot of folks, maybe you thought there was crushed glass at the bottom of your wine glass.

The good news is that it’s not crushed glass, and the better news is that tartaric crystals are totally harmless and have no effect on the taste or quality of your wine.

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Here’s the scoop on the bling at the bottom of your glass:

Tartaric acid is one of the most important acids present in wine, along with malic acid. Why do we need acid in our wine, you ask? Because it gives wine crispness, and it prevents sweeter wines from tasting  sticky-sweet, or “flabby.”

During the winemaking process, if the wine gets too cold, the liquid can’t absorb all of the acid. So the extra acid is released from the wine and forms crystals that look like ice or salt clinging to the bottom of the cork and/or settling at the bottom of the bottle.

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If you’re drinking white wine, the tartaric crystals will look like little shards of glass. If you’re drinking red wine, the crystals will look like tiny purple icicles (think Cher costume). If you see Cher at the bottom of your glass, you probably need to slow down and have someone drive you home.

It’s easier for the wine industry to filter out tartaric crystals than having to educate consumers about the chemistry behind tartrates. But you may still come across the occasional snow globe scene at the bottom of your wine glass.

If you do, don’t worry. Just drink in the wonder of it all. If you’re so inclined, you might even belt out a few verses of “If I Could Turn Back Time.”


Photo credit: Ian Smith via Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: Ian Smith via Wikimedia Commons

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