Sparkling Wines! (Sort of)
Initially, she thought that the dark material collecting on the cork and in the bottom of her glass was "sediment", something not uncommon in wine. But as the "sediment" dried, it began to look translucent and crystalline. Not something that is a typical characteristic of sediment! Her concern, was that some sort of contamination (glass powder?) had made its way into the bottle.
When we first opened, I had a client reach out to me because she had just opened a bottle of our outstanding Zinfandel, but saw something concerning in the bottle. She sent me these photos.
I wrote back to her explaining that what she was finding there were tartrates, or tartaric acid, that has simply begun to dry in the neck of the bottle. Tartaric acid is the exact same compound that you use in baking as Cream of Tartar!
Tartrates are completely natural to wine-making grapes. They are tasteless, odorless, and completely harmless. As wine ages, the tartrates fall out of solution and form crystals around surfaces that they can cling to. If wine is overly processed (ours are not), the tartrates tend to be eliminated as a by-product of that processing (not as the goal). But that processing tends to deaden the flavor of the wine, which, if you've tried our Zin, you know would be a horrible shame!
In the industry, the presence of tartrates are actually so desirable and indicative of a high-quality wine that has not been overly processed, they are actually called Wine Diamonds!
So if you see something sparkling a tiny bit in your glass of that really great wine, you know that you probably have a great bottle on your hands. You can drink around them, rinse them out, or...some people just crunch on them. Again, they're tasteless and harmless, so you do you!