How Do You Get Rid of Wine Sediment and/or Cork Pieces

It’s not uncommon to find sediment in the bottom of a bottle of wine. Or, if you ran across a dried out or brittle cork, you might have found pieces of the cork that ended up in the bottle after you opened it. For some people, this sediment can be unpleasant. 

How can you get rid of sediment or cork pieces in a bottle of wine? There are a couple of different methods to try. The preferred method is decanting the wine into a decanter. Another method includes using a coffee filter or a few layers of cheesecloth. 

We’ll discuss both methods and what results you can expect from each. 

Reasons You May Have Sediment or Cork in Your Bottle

It’s quite normal to find sediment in wine, especially with high tannin wines that have aged for a while. The sediment is perfectly wine to drink, but if there is a lot of it or the particle sizes are quite large, then drinking the wine could be unpleasant. 

Sediment in wine typically comes from two different sources, through the fermentation process to produce the wine, or through the aging process in an older bottle of wine. To make wine, grapes are crushed and the juice is fermented with yeast. Small bits of the grape skins, seeds, or even dead yeast may be present in the final wine. Some winemakers feel that this sediment adds to the experience of the wine. 

Wines that are high in tannins might gain additional sediment as they age. Tannins polymerize over time, meaning that they will bind together in long chains, which makes them taste less harsh. As the tannins and other phenolic components polymerize, they may fall out of the liquid wine as sediment. This will generally start becoming evident in wines that are ten years or older. Sediment like this could indicate a good quality wine. 

Some sediment may also resemble crystals. These crystals are likely tartaric acid crystals, otherwise known as potassium bitartrate, or cream of tartar. These crystals form when tartaric acid, naturally found in grapes, binds with potassium. This typically happens at colder temperatures. Some of the additives used during the fining process can even catch the tartaric acid before bottling. 

Sometimes, you might run across a brittle cork that breaks apart when you try to uncork the bottle. Corks may dry out or become brittle when the wine has been stored upright for a long time. Wine is supposed to be laid on its side to be stored, especially with the intent to age for many years. The wine in the bottle helps to keep the cork moist and maintain a good seal. If the cork becomes dry, there is a chance that air can seep into the bottle. When the wine is exposed to air, the wine will begin to oxidize, causing a vinegary-flavor.  

Even with proper storage, older corks can be prone to being dry or breaking. For older bottles of wine, be sure to use a very sharp corkscrew and carefully extract the cork. Even with care, you may still end up with cork pieces in your wine. 

Decanting Wine to Remove Sediment

The highest recommended way to remove sediment from wine is to use the decanting method. In this method, you pour the wine from the bottle into the decanter, only stopping pouring just before sediment starts flowing into the decanter. You may need to decant a second time to get rid of all of the sediment. 

This method works best when you’ve allowed the bottle to rest upright until all the sediment and precipitation has fallen to the bottom of the bottle. If you decant the wine immediately after it’s been laying down, you likely won’t be able to get rid of all the sediment. 

The downside to this method is that you will lose a couple of ounces of wine at the bottom of the bottle. This method also takes a little bit more care and concentration to make sure you are precise with your pour. However, this method has the least impact to the flavor of the wine. Other methods might result in too much filtration, which could impact the flavor or aroma of the wine. 

Using a Filter to Remove Sediment 

A quicker and more fool proof way to remove sediment and cork pieces from your wine is to pour your wine through a filter, such as a coffee filter or a few layers of cheese cloth. Using this method, you can also squeeze out a few more ounces of wine than using the decanting method. In this method, you’ll need to place a coffee filter in the mouth of another vessel, such as a decanter, and pour the wine through. The filter should catch most of the particles. 

However, there is a chance that using such a fine filter could remove too much sediment from the wine. The finest particles in the wine add to the finished flavor. The filter could also effect some of the aromas of the wine. The filtered wine might end up a little flat or lacking compared to the original bottle.

If you don’t have a decanter, you may try to wrap the filter around the neck of the bottle and secure it with a rubber band. With this method, you should pour the wine very slowly. The filter will slow down how fast the wine comes out of the bottle. This method can be a little messy, so you could also try using other vessels, like a pour over coffee maker or funnel. Place the filter in the device and place over your wine glass. Pour the wine into the device, being careful not to overfill the pour over or funnel. 

While sediment and cork pieces are safe to drink, the feeling of the particles in the mouth can be unpleasant. Thankfully, you can salvage that bottle with a couple of these decanting or filtering methods.