01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

A couple of questions about sediment and pouring


We all store our cork stoppered bottles lying flat (at least if it’s for any length of time). Then we take them out of the rack to use, maybe planning on decanting them. However, as we all know, many older wines, particularly clarets and Riojas I’ve found, do tend to have sometimes large amounts of sediment. This presents a couple of problems:

  1. The process of picking up the flat lying bottle and standing it upright is likely to stir the sediment up. How long should I leave the bottle upright to let it settle again? Note even if planning to decant that won’t help until the sediment has first settled, otherwise it’ll just settle in the decanter.

  2. I have also found with such wines that the sediment has often already settled in the shoulder (is that the right word?) of the bottle whilst it was laid down. When standing the bottle upright much or all of this sediment typically remains stuck to bottle just under the shoulder. So how do I avoid the pouring action (particularly at the start of a full bottle) from ‘washing’ that sediment along with it into the glass?

Appreciate any useful tips folk can give.


I can’t say I’ve experienced the issue you’ve mentioned in point 2, but have a couple of thoughts on point 1. I’d give the wine a couple of hours standing up to let the sediment settle, and I’d probably open it after an hour. Depending on how mature it is, I might not decant it as you can end up knocking the remaining life out of it in doing so.

In terms of determining whether or not to decant, you can always pour a small glass and taste at intervals to see if it’s improving (so decant) or fading (so pour, gently but generously, straight away).


I think this is what decanting baskets are made for, although I’ve never used one.


[Is that decanting through a filter?] Scratch that question I have now realised you mean one of those baskets where the wine is laid almost flat!


I would say three options:

  1. For older wines and especially ports that have thrown a significant sediment, I would stand it up from that morning or the evening before, so probably 6-12hrs prior to opening

  2. You could get a decanting funnel with a fine mesh filter that will catch the majority of sediment - something like this:

  1. You could get a decanting basket (as mentioned by @Mikedenman1980) these are often used in restaurants where this is not time to stand the bottle upright, and allow you to keep the bottle virtually horizontal from wherever it is stored through to the decant, although you would still have to watch for the sediment moving through the neck of the bottle


Re point 2. I never really noticed this until I started decanting and then only noticed it when I first decanted an older whine (not that old; maybe 10 year-old claret) and the side of the bottle that had been facing down whilst racked was now at the top and, even though I’d only just started pouring, there was all this sediment stuck to what was now the upper side of the bottle with just air between it and the actual wine.

And that in turn has made me wonder how often I’m am merrily washing sediment into my glass no matter how carefully I’m pouring.


I was wondering whether I should go as early as that for taking it out of the rack. I do tend to do this when I remember!

As for the sediment stuck to the inside of the neck/shoulder of the bottle. This definitely happens and I wonder whether it is worsened by the ‘violence’ of it’s transportation to my house. Maybe I should let delivered bottles stand for 12 hours to let the sediment accumulate in the bottom before (carefully) laying it flat in the rack.


I have often seen this - sediment on the sides of older bottle, but don’t generally worry too much about it, especially for older bottles that have been stood upright for a decent period, but that have spent the rest of their lives in one place on their side. I think most of what you see is ‘stuck’ to the inside of the bottle and doesn’t tend to end up in the glass, as with a careful decant would struggle to come past the shoulder!


I’m sure we are all happy to chip in with various suggestions. But to be honest, I’m not sure there is any “one size fits all” approach to this stuff. Sediment varies so much that you get many exceptions.

A quick stand-up of several hours usually works fine. But sometimes it doesn’t, especially with very fine or fluffy sediments. They need a lot longer, of the order of days. Bad luck if dinner is in a few hours!

On your point two, apart from the business with the decanting basket thingies (no, I don’t have one either) tilt the bottle over slowly, so that you always get a steady stream - an uneven, surging delivery will not help.

Another point - often left unmentioned - is that some sediment is pretty innocuous. I quite often don’t bother decanting most Pinot Noir wines unless they have a lot of sediment. But Gamay often produces rather bitter sediment so I would be less carefree with older bottles. But none of this is an exact science.


Worth also noting on some wines - usually ports - there is a white mark which denotes which way the bottle has been laid down.


Hah, maybe I should put a dab of white chalk on the top of my bottles in the rack. Only problem will be when I do a bit of ‘rummaging’ :joy:

But that is interesting as that is exactly what I’m experiencing with bottles that have been laid down for a while.

I think I may start leaving bottles standing upright for 24 hours to settle after delivery before racking them in future.


I usually carry the horizontal bottle carefully from the rack to a heavy bowl that holds the bottle at a slight angle. Then remove the cork or screwcap when in the bowl, lift the bottle, and decant directly from that near-horizontal angle.

A heavy bowl is a lot more practical than a decanting basket when removing the cork.


For any red with any sort of bottle age I think 24 hours is a good guideline for standing upright pre decanting. When I expect sediment in any quantity, (some of my old unfiltered Oz bottles carry a large amount) I filter the last third of a the bottle thru a paper coffee filter. Plenty usually stuck to the shoulder, to be thoroughly rinsed out before decanting back to bottle if required.


I think that pretty much exactly matches the strategy I shall be using going forward! I am currently doing the double decanting and so I’m already doing a thorough rinse of the bottle in between. However I’m seriously thinking about one of those new eto decanters that is due out soon.


Have got my name down for 2


Do you know if they have a release date yet?


Looks to be October looking at the funding page updates, down the side it seems to show March 2019 for those who haven’t yet ordered one (as a guess).


Fingers crossed that will be met. Can’t wait for mine.


Think I have my alternative at the ready!


The computer says:

Designed for holding and dispensing large volumes of gas

So how exactly? Evaporate first? :wink: