Arizona Stronghold Vineyards & Tasting Room
1023 N Main St
Cottonwood, AZ 86326
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In our fast food, techno-driven, work more hours than you can handle, tasteless rock hard tomato world, wine too has become a commodity that is designed to withstand the rigors of transport and dubious wholesale and retail storage conditions – all at the expense of flavor and true quality.
From time to time you may have noticed some crystals on the bottom of a wine cork you pulled from your favorite bottles of wine from France or Italy. On red wine corks they appear pinkish and sparkle in light. In white wines, they are almost imperceptible on corks. These crystals are called Potassium bitartrate – or tartrates for short. These are natural crystals that form in cold conditions as the main wine acid, Tartaric acid, begins to form crystal chains on uneven surfaces (like the bottom of a cork) or even around imperceptibly small solid in the wine.
In wineries that minimally process their vino (such as Arizona Stronghold) tartrates may even form a small ring around the bottom of the bottle - and they only become a perceptive issue in white and pink wines because they are easy to see. There are ways to keep this from happening in wine, but in our opinion, these processes beat up the wine significantly. In a nutshell, the winemaker has to add large quantities of Cream of Tartar (just like the stuff you bake with) to a tank to act as the nucleation or starting point for crystal formation (much like a hailstone or snowflake). Then the tank is chilled down to near freezing and it is stirred aggressively until all the unstable tartaric acid forms tartrates (which attach to the sides and bottom of the tank that the wine is being stirred in). After this is done, the wine is considered to be “Cold Stable” and will no longer throw off tartrates in the retailer’s warehouse or your fridge.
In all the tests we have done, cold stable wines lose some of their aromatic beauty. What wouldn’t be beaten up after getting that kind of treatment?!
So the next time you identify beautiful crystals in the bottom of your bottle or glass, you can be assured of at least three things: 1.) That the person who made the wine cared about it and was willing to put true quality in front of vanity 2.) That it was stored in a safe, cool environment (otherwise it wouldn’t have thrown off tartrates) and 3.) That you are not drinking a mainstream, processed wine that was built to last on a shelf like a rock hard, cardboard-esque tomato on a supermarket shelf!