Understanding Tartrates in Wine: What Are Wine Diamonds?

When enjoying a glass of wine, have you ever noticed a powdery residue or sediment at the bottom of the bottle or in your glass? Fear not, for those tiny particles are likely tartrates, a naturally occurring phenomenon in wine. In this Wine Wisdom post, we will delve into the world of tartrates, demystify their presence in wine, and explore their impact on both winemaking and the sensory experience.

Photo from Francesco Santini from Wikimedia

What are Tartrates in Wine? 

Tartrates, also known as wine diamonds or wine sediment, refer to the crystalline deposits that can form in wine over time. These crystals are primarily composed of potassium bitartrate, the potassium salt of tartaric acid. Tartaric acid is a natural acid found in grapes and is a key component in the acidity of wine.

How are Tartrates Formed?

The formation of tartrates is a result of the wine's natural chemistry and changes in temperature. During the winemaking process, when grape juice undergoes fermentation, tartaric acid can combine with potassium ions present in the juice to form potassium bitartrate. Over time, as the wine ages, the concentration of these crystals can increase, leading to their visible sedimentation.

Do Tartrates Affect Wine Quality?

Contrary to popular belief, tartrates are not indicative of poor quality or flawed wine. In fact, they can be seen as a positive attribute. When tartrates are present, it often suggests that the winemaker has chosen to minimize intervention in the winemaking process, allowing the wine to evolve naturally. Tartrates can be a testament to the authenticity and minimal manipulation of the wine, showcasing the true expression of the grapes and the winemaking region.

Can I Remove Tartrates?

While tartrates are harmless and do not impact the wine's taste negatively, their presence can influence the wine's texture and mouthfeel.  If the presence of tartrates concerns you, there are simple ways to handle them. When pouring wine, leave a small amount in the bottle, allowing any sediment to settle before pouring the rest into your glass. Alternatively, using a wine filter or decanting the wine can help separate the crystals from the liquid, ensuring a sediment-free pour.

The Skinny 

Tartrates, those seemingly mysterious crystals in wine, are evidence of the natural processes involved in winemaking. While their presence may raise eyebrows, these crystals are harmless and can even be seen as a mark of quality. So, next time you spot these wine diamonds, you can sit back and sip knowing exactly what is in your glass.