Why are your wines cloudy?

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Sediment in Contadino 3 (2005)

I remember very well the sunday ritual at home. My father and I checking out the kitchen in the morning where mother was preparing the food and then descending together in the winecellar to choose carefully the bottles to accompany the dishes, opening and decanting together with my father the carefully selected wines for the family sunday lunch.
I guess I have been lucky for being introduced to the culture of wine and attention to food in a family atmosphere from an early age.

In todays “fast and furious” world, the decanting as well as other time consuming attentions to wine are unfortunately not being appreciated anymore and regarded more or less a time consuming “hassle”.
The “clear and clean” (filtered and fined) wines have become the industry standard to modern society with an inevitable counter reaction today, which is even worse, in search for the deliberate cloudyness in the so called “natural wines”, making it fashionable to shake the bottle before serving… How far have we drifted away from wine culture…

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Remaining sediment after decanting

My wines have been criticized from the day I started producing as being ”weird”, “wacky”, “off”, or even “not fit for consumption”, mainly for the visual aspect of the presence of sediment in the bottles. Have we already forgotten decanting Vintage Ports, the great old Burgundys and Bordeaux’s, just to mention a few…?

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Eh voilà! Decanted and clear

Now what is this sediment and why does this happen?
Quite simply the sediment in a wine is the accumulation of different compounds in the wine such as protein, tartaric crystals, etc… all related to the fruit and perfectly natural in the process of winemaking.
The quantity of sediment is related to the number of times a wine is racked, the amount of “élevage” the wine has been given and the kind of varietal which deposits less or more sediment.
Young bottled wines will drop more sediment in the bottle compared to aged wines in the cellar as the sediment has been deposited mainly in the aging vessel instead of the bottle.

Why do some bottles show this sediment and others do not?
The two main reasons are the fining of the wine while the wine is aging and going through it’s “élevage” in the winery. The other reason is the filtering of wine which has become a common practice in today’s wine production. A very strong (sterile) filtering technique takes away nearly all of this sediment.
I choose not to filter or fine at all as this takes away a part of the flavors and tactile pleasure of the wine, and so I prefer maintaining the integrity of the wine accepting the natural sediment in the bottle.

Does the sediment affect the quality of the wine?
I believe it does not affect the absolute quality of the wine. It even protects the wine during the aging process in the bottle.
The problem is much more a practical one as the consumer will need to spend more time and attention before drinking the bottle in the best and most respectfull way: keep the bottle standing upright for a night and then, just before drinking or a few hours before, depending on the quality and age of the wine, decanting the wine to separate the sediment.

Finally, after 10 years of continuous and consequent artisanal work to produce profound territorial wines, I have probably reached a critical mass of people liking the wines I produce as these wine-lovers probably represent a part of our society’s consumers in search for genuine products, even though or maybe just because these require a certain patience and handling.

When I explain today that my wines are “old fashioned” and similar to old style Burgundy wines which need decanting to separate the sediment for a better and more defined flavor to appreciate its origin or terroir, people now listen and seem to understand and relate again to the centuries old rites of wine culture, of which one of them is decanting.

May 1st. 2012

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