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Wine Club Newsletter - October 2023

Updated: May 11

Is It Okay To Drink The Sediment In The Bottom Of Your Red Wine Bottle?

If you've ever decanted or reached the end of a bottle of red wine, you've no doubt taken note of the tiny flecks of dark sediment collected at the base of the bottle. Your first instinct might be that something has gone wrong with your wine, or that it might not be safe to drink. However, you would be wrong — instead of tossing that perfectly good bit of wine down the drain, leave it alone. The sediment that collects at the bottom of the bottle is completely okay to consume.


Just as the dregs of coffee and loose-leaf tea sometimes find their way to the bottom of their respective pots, so too does the organic matter in wine. Sediment in red wine is not indicative of poor quality, however — far from it. You find sediment in your red wine simply because of the fact that natural components in the wine have sunk to the bottom of the bottle while the wine ages. The longer it has been aged, the more sediment tends to collect.

So, while the sediment is completely harmless both to the wine and whoever drinks it, it doesn't exactly look appetizing. Understanding what exactly is going on in the bottle might help in determining whether or not you choose to keep the dregs as they are or filter them away.


The sediment found in the bottom of the red wine is a form of lees. There are two types of lees: The first type is called gross lees. These are the collected mass of dead yeast, grape skins, seeds, stems, and tartrate crystals. The red wine is primarily fermented in this gross lees, providing the wine with its characteristic tannic flavor. These are removed before bottling, but there is still another type of lees present in the wine.


Fine lees, on the other hand, are the sediment you encounter at the bottom of the bottle. These tend to settle and separate while the wine ages, forming a silky layer of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. And because red wines are not traditionally stabilized in the way whites and rosés are, the sediment is allowed to build up in the bottle. Again, the longer the bottle is allowed to sit and age, the more sediment there will be. Reds like Bordeaux varieties and Cabernet Sauvignon tend to contain a fair amount of sediment.


So, while sediment is in no way harmless to drink, you might not always want to. The solution to this is to simply decant your red wine through some nice cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve. It will catch the sediment and leave you with a perfectly clear decanter of red wine.

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Demand for wine has fallen so much that France is spending $215 million to distill excess wine into ethanol used in cleaning products!

Wine producers do not toil for months so that their wine can be put to industrial uses. But that nonetheless will happen in France this year thanks to falling demand for wine among French drinkers, weaker sales in China, and greater competition in export markets.


With EU help, the French government plans to spend about $215 million to pay for “distillation aid,” as the Financial Times reported on Sunday, with most of the assistance going to the Bordeaux and Languedoc regions. The process involves distilling excess wine into ethanol, which can then be put to various industrial uses, including the manufacture of perfume, cleaning products, and the hydroalcoholic gel found in hand sanitizers.


On Friday, Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said during a distillery visit that the government aimed to shore up wine prices and help winemakers “find new sources of revenue,” the FT reported. Farmers must “adapt to changes in consumption and adjust production to the demand of tomorrow,” he added.


In another program, farmers are compensated for destroying vineyards, converting the land to woods, and leaving it fallow. In Bordeaux, about 1,000 farmers have participated, leading to the removal of about 8% of the region’s vines, the British paper reported. Other public funds help grape growers switch to other products, including olives.


As the BBC reported this weekend, wine consumption has fallen across Europe—including by 7% in Italy, 10% in Spain, 15% in France, 22% in Germany, and 34% in Portugal—for the year to June, according to European Commission data. Meanwhile, wine production across the bloc rose 4%.


Also hitting the sector is a cost-of-living crisis—linked to soaring energy prices and the Russian invasion of Ukraine—that has spurred many European shoppers to become more frugal and spend less on nonessential items. Meanwhile craft beer and other drinks have presented increasing competition.


But demand for high-end wine has held up better than the more affordable variety, so some producers in France have opted to move upmarket rather than convert their land to something else. In February, Moët Hennessy, the wine and spirits division of LVMH, added Provence rosé producer Château Minuty to its portfolio of luxury wine labels.


As the Guardian reports, this isn’t the first time Europe has suffered a “wine lake.” In the mid-2000s, the overproduction of wine, stimulated by subsidies, prompted the EU to reform its farm policies.


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Cheers!

Gary Parker, Owner

The WineSellar & Brasserie


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