What to do if wine is cloudy?

Answered by Paul Bowser

As a sommelier and brewer, I have encountered cloudy wines on several occasions. While it may not be visually appealing, I can assure you that the haze usually does not affect the actual flavor of the . So, before you start worrying about the quality of the wine, let me tell you that it is often a harmless and natural occurrence.

Cloudiness in wine can be caused by several factors, including sediment, proteins, tartrates, or even bacteria. Sediment is commonly found in older wines and is a result of the natural aging process. It consists of harmless particles such as grape skins, seeds, or cells that have settled over time. This sediment can be easily removed by decanting the wine carefully, which involves pouring the wine into another container, leaving the sediment behind.

Proteins, on the other hand, can cause a haze in the wine. These proteins can come from the grapes themselves or from the winemaking process. They are usually harmless and do not affect the taste of the wine. However, if you prefer a clear wine, you can try decanting it or even using a wine fining agent to help clarify it. Fining agents are substances that bind with the proteins and help them settle to the bottom of the bottle.

Tartrates are another common cause of cloudiness in wine. They are harmless crystals that form naturally during the winemaking process and can be found on the cork or at the bottom of the bottle. While they may look like glass shards, they are actually harmless and do not affect the taste of the wine. If you notice tartrates in your wine, you can simply decant it or even filter it through a fine mesh strainer to remove them.

Lastly, bacteria can sometimes cause cloudiness in wine. This is more common in homemade or natural wines where the fermentation process may not have been completely controlled. In these cases, you may notice a funky or off-putting smell along with the cloudiness. If this is the case, it is best to consult a professional to determine if the wine is still safe to consume.

In most cases, time can be the easiest and least harmful solution to clear a cloudy wine. Simply let the wine sit undisturbed in the bottle for a period of time, and the haze should settle naturally. However, if you are eager to enjoy the wine sooner, decanting can help speed up the process. Gently pour the wine into a decanter, leaving any sediment or haze behind in the bottle.

To summarize, if you come across a cloudy wine, there's no need to panic. It is often a natural occurrence and does not affect the flavor or safety of the wine. If you prefer a clear wine, decanting or using fining agents can help clarify it. Remember, wine is a living and evolving product, and sometimes a little cloudiness is just a part of its charm.