Wine Faults & How To Spot Bad Wine

How To Spot Wine Faults

What happens when you open a bottle of wine, have a glass and vow never to buy it again? Is it just the taste you don’t like, or is there a sneaky suspicion that there’s something not quite right about it, but you don’t know what.

Similarly, I’m sure there have been occasions when you’ve bought a bottle of your favourite wine, only to find out that it didn’t really taste the same as how you remembered it.

That’s often because there is something wrong with the bottle; this is an area which terrifies most people, and whilst those of us, who taste wine professionally, will think nothing of sending a bad bottle back in a restaurant and advising the waiter why we have done so, thousands of wine drinkers will end up quietly drinking (or leaving) the bottle, as they are too uncertain to complain.

There’s a difference between a wine which is faulty, and has something obviously wrong with it, and a wine that you simply don’t like because of the style. If it’s the former, then you should send it back in a restaurant, or take it back to the shop and get your money back, or a replacement bottle. Here are a few pointers to identifying problem wines;

1. Oxidised wine – this is when a wine smells and tastes old, dirty, slightly rancid and almost like old, bad sherry; the first sign is often on the colour, which in a white wine will sometimes be deep yellow, and in a red, slightly brown. Oxidised wine is when air has managed to get into the bottle and has spoilt the freshness of the wine; it ends up tasting dirty,dank, vinegary and just yukky!

2. Corked wine – some people still think that corked wine is when you see bits of cork floating around in the glass; in fact it’s when bacteria has got into the cork, causing it to create mould and that mould has got into the wine. The wine will often smell of mushrooms and wet dogs, a horrid vegetal smell, that is carried over into the wine – the degree of corkiness varies, and some are difficult to detect, but any will detract from the freshness of the wine, leaving it dull, whilst the worst will reek of mould, must and mushrooms.

These are the 2 most commonly occurring faults in wine; you can also sometimes sniff sulphur (bad eggs, or a struck match), which indicates that too much sulphur has been used in the treatment of the wine.

Anything else is likely to be purely taste, but if the wine is clean and flavoursome, even if you don’t like the style, that’s not a reason to take it back. Similarly, if you find deposits in the wine, for rich, aged reds, sediment is often a naturally occurring by product of the wine, which is removed by decanting, whilst white wines, occasionally have little white crystals, which can be mistaken for glass, but are in fact innocent tartrate crystals, which occasionally occur when the wine has been stored in exceptionally cold places.


Angela Mount

Angela Mount

Angela Mount is a wine expert, writer, and presenter, and is also responsible for the the range selection for online wine retailer YourFavouriteWines.com. She famously had her taste buds insured for £10million by her former employers Somerfield.

Read more articles by: Angela Mount


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