Spotting a Faulty Wine

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007 at 12:00 am

wine corkEven if you’re not a wine expert and only drinks wine occasionally, you still need to know some basic information that will help you determine if something is wrong with the wine you are drinking. Having been around wine long enough, you can usually determine if a bottle of wine is faulty by simply relying on your nose and taste buds.

Spotting cork taint

This is one of the more common problems of wines that uses corks. Wines that are corked have been infected by a fungus that produces 1,2,4-trichloroanisole or TCA. According to statistics, cork taint is a main cause of wine spoilage ofter ruining to 5% of all bottles of wine.

You can’t see anything wrong with the wine from outside the bottle. As long as the bottle uses corks as stoppage, there is a chance that the cork has started to grow fungus and the wine itself has been spoiled.

Once you open the bottle, it is totally a different matter. A wine that has been tainted with cork fungus usually smells like wet cardboard, mushrooms, or molds. At times some people even described cork taint as similar to a pair of smelly socks. If you taste the same, the wine will taste lacking of fruitiness and often times are quite bitter.

Spotting wines that have been oxidized

Oxidation is the process of exposing the wine to oxygen. For wines oxygen is an aggressive element and exposure to such means total ruin. Wines exposed to oxygen over long periods of time will be degraded and the flavor and all its fruitiness will be lost.

Spotting cooked wine

Cooked wine refers to the wine that have been left at the mercy of unforgiving temperatures. These wines are usually those left in cargo holds, loading bays, or even warehouses where the temperature surges. When exposed to high temperatures, the wine expands and a variety of reactions occur inside the bottle.

One possible reaction is that the expansion of the liquid might push open the cork or cap. Or the wine itself could leak through the cork or cap. When the wine is chilled or placed in a cooler storage facility, the wine will naturally contract and might cause air to seep through the cork.

To avoid buying possible cooked wines, do not buy wines with corks that are protruding or loose from the mouth of the bottle. These kinds of wines tastes like they were cooked. The flavor, the aroma and everything else about the wine is not fresh and instead you will get a taste of boiled, prune-like grapes.

Spotting excessive use of sulfur

Sulfur dioxide is a preservative often used in winemaking. It is a compound that is very beneficial to the process of fermenting and preserving the wines. Usage of sulfur dioxide is only normal. However, when sulfur is added more that it should be, the finished wine will smell like mothballs, burnt matches or burnt rubber. Heavy doses of sulfur dioxide can be dangerous to one’s health.