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What are Tartrates?


October 3rd 2018

“Tartrate crystals are as natural to wine as seeds are to a watermelon.”
- Ronn Wiegand, Master Sommelier
So, what exactly are those little crystals floating in your white wine or stuck to the bottom of the cork?
There are three main acids that exist in wine: malic acid, citric acid & tartaric acid. Tartaric acid is responsible for a wine's tartness and also creates those crystals. Tartaric acid maintains its chemical consistency even after fermentation, which helps maintain the wine's PH levels protecting it from spoiling, but it doesn’t always stay in its dissolved from. This acid is extremely susceptible to temperature and will change its form if it gets too cold. When a bottle of wine is chilled down too much the tartaric acid inside the wine will bind with potassium and solidify, turning into crystals. They are completely harmless and natural!
Quick Facts:
*If the wine is exposed to temperatures below 40°F tartaric acid crystals can form within one week of the wine's exposure to those extreme temperatures.
*Another name for tartrates is "wine diamonds"
*The formation of wine diamonds is less common in red wines because their level of tartaric acid is lower, and crystals tend to fall out naturally during the longer barrel-aging process. 
*The presence of tartrate crystals is viewed by many winemakers as a sign of quality, indicating that the wine was not over processed. Cold stabilization is one method used to remove tartrates.
Tartrate Removal at CMW
After fermentation is complete for one of our white grape varietals, our winemaker chills the tank down below freezing temperatures to begin the cold stabilization process. This step refines the juice and helps to eliminate unwanted tartatic acid. This process takes 2 weeks to successfully complete. It will not hurt the wine to undergo cold stabilization for a longer amount of time. Our individually temperature controlled fermentation tanks allow for this step to be completed easily. Imagine winemaking before this technology existed?!   
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