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Q: I read that tartaric acid is made from wine or grape juice. Does that mean that kosher tartaric acid is made from kosher wine?
A: Shulchan Aruch YD 123:16 rules that the deposits which collect on the inside walls of barrels used for non-kosher wine are permitted if those deposits dried on the barrel-wall for 12 months. The reason for that leniency is that after the deposits dry for that long they are treated like “dirt” (non-food) and are permitted even though the source of those deposits is non-kosher wine. [This halacha does not apply to all issurim.] It is these deposits which are used to produce tartaric acid and cream of tartar (see Darchei Teshuvah 123:53), and they are therefore kosher even when produced from non-kosher wine.
Nowadays, these materials are not made from 12-month old deposits, but rather from grape-based items which have been mechanically dried over the course of a few hours. Some rule that the leniency only applies to the exact case discussed in Shulchan Aruch and therefore do not consider mechanically-dried tartaric acid to be kosher unless it is made from kosher wine. However, the cRc and most American Hashgachos follow the lenient approach which argues that the product is kosher as long as the mechanical drying mimics the (moisture-reducing qualities of the) 12-month air-drying.