Not long ago, I opened a very popular German Riesling that I had in my wine cooler for a number of years. It has been stored properly, on its side to keep the cork moist and at a temperature of 55 degrees. As I opened the bottle and examined the cork I could see streaks from the bottom of the cork to the top. This is a good indication the wine might be oxidized. When I tasted it, the wine was flat and lacked good aromas. It hadn’t been taking on oxygen too long as the white wine had only changed color a little.
I have mentioned these types of things, several times, in my blog articles over the past years. Given the fact that there are six to seven common wine faults I felt it would be helpful to everyone if I did a piece just on these faults.
The Most Common Wine Faults
It is thought that perhaps as much as 10% of all wine bottles in the world are impacted by certain faults. Some of these faults begin in the winery while others take place after the wine is bottled. Let us take a look at these faults.
Corked Wine: Over the years I think this is the fault I have experienced the most. You can’t tell a wine is corked by looking at it or smelling the cork. The only way to tell if a wine is corked is by smelling and tasting your wine. TCA (that’s 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole) is a chemical compound primarily responsible for cork taint. The compound attacks the cork, which over time passes into the wine causing the wine to be tainted.
The way to tell if your wine is corked is to put your nose in the glass and smell the wine. If it has an odor of moldy cardboard, musty basement or mangy sponge, these are all common signs of the presence of TCA which causes the wine to smell bad and the wine to be flat and lifeless.
When you have such a wine you should take it back to the wine shop you bought it at. If in a restaurant exchange it for another bottle. There is nothing you can do to correct it.
Oxidized Wine: Oxidized wine is a wine that has had too much exposure to oxygen. The barrel aging process and letting your wine breathe is intended to allow slight amounts of oxygen into the wine to “open up” the aromas and taste. Too much oxygen causes the wine to be flat and lifeless. It may even have a smell similar to vinegar.
Oxidized wines will look wrong. Reds will look dull with brownish hues and their flavors will be flattened. White wines will turn an orangey hue and taste flat. White wines tend to oxidize quicker than reds due to their lack of tannins.
There is nothing you can do with an oxidized wine. Once it has taken on too much oxygen it is gone. You should also take the bottle back to wherever you purchased it and ask for a replacement bottle.
Cooked Wine: Cooked wine is what we call a wine that has been impacted by heat damage. I once left a bottle of wine on the front seat of my car in the summer time. By the time I returned (I wasn’t gone very long) the wine had actually cooked inside the bottle and pushed the cork up towards the top of the bottle and it then leaked all over my seat. This can also happen if you are shipping wine in an uncontrolled temperature environment, such as a semi-trailer in the summer months or a delivery van of some sort. This is why most wineries don’t ship wine to their customers during the warmer months of the year.
If the wine is cooked it will taste like a steak sauce: jammy, overly processed, etc. The damaged corks may also allow the wine to be oxidized, as well.
Light Damage: Wine that is exposed to prolonged UV light will also become damaged. For example storing wine in your kitchen with exposure to sunlight through the window will damage the wine.
Light damage tends to affect more delicate wines like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. The UV light affects the wine’s structure which results in the wine having the damp newspaper or cardboard smell.
Once the wine is damaged, it is damaged. Just remember to store your wine away from any direct light source, especially the sun.
The next couple of faults I have never had to deal with. It took a little research to come up with the information to share with you.
Secondary Refermenting: Sometimes a wine will start refermenting in the bottle. This causes the wine to have a slight fizzy and off flavor.
This condition happens when yeast and sugar are still in the bottle. This may occur when wineries don’t practice good sanitation or filter the wine properly during production or bottling.
The yeast in the bottle attacks the sugar, byproducts of which are carbon dioxide and alcohol. This causes the wines to be fizzy or bubbly, and will change the wine’s flavor profile causing the wine to taste bad.
Brett: Brett is the short name for “Brettanomyces.” Brett is a type of yeast which is fairly common in wine vineyards. A little brett will cause your wine to taste earthly and slightly musty. This can cause the wine to be quite unpalatable. This condition is unfixable, so the wine is undrinkable.
All of the conditions above warrant asking for a bottle to be replaced. Whether you are in a restaurant or purchased this wine in your favorite wine shop. It is also polite to return the wine before you have finished off most of the bottle.
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- February 18th – National Drink Wine Day
- March 3rd – National Mulled Wine Day
- April 17th – International Malbec Day
- May 3rd – International Sauvignon Blanc Day
- May 9th – World Moscato Day
- May 23rd – International Chardonnay Day
- May 25th – National Wine Day
- June 8th – National Rosé Wine Day
- June 20th – National Lambrusco Day