Wine Faults can Stink
The table is set. Your guests have arrived to enjoy the meal you have been preparing for hours and you spent half a day choosing the perfect wines to go with your masterpiece dinner. You lovingly open the bottle and pour the first round into your fine crystal stemware and as you take the first sniff… PHEW! This wine stinks! You have just experienced the world of “wine faults”.
There are several things that can go wrong with the winemaking process that will ruin the wine in the bottle. These faults can be caused from errors in production from such mistakes as choosing the wrong yeast strain, adding too much sulfur dioxide to the grape must or simply poor sanitation practices in the winery. Commercial wineries rarely make these mistakes and doing so would quickly reduce the winery to bankrupt status.
This being said, there are still plenty of things that can still go wrong with wine. Cork taint is by far the most common fault encountered in any wine.
Wine corks are made from the bark of the cork oak trees prevalent in the forest of Portugal and other European countries. It is believed that when the corks are bleached to give them the light color, we are accustomed to, mold on some of the bark interacts with the bleaching solution creating a chemical called tyrene or trichloroanisole. When tyrene contacts the wine, smells of wet cardboard or moldy hay will overpower any aroma the wine had to offer. While the wine will not necessarily hurt you to drink, don’t! Replace the cork and return it for a new bottle. It is estimated that 2-5% of all wine sealed with a natural cork is affected
Oxidation is a problem that we find far too often in restaurants that sell wine by the glass. Once a wine has been opened there is no way to stop the oxidation process although it can be slowed by the addition of inert gas or vacuum sealing. Our favorite products are Private Preserve gas and the Vacu-Vin system. These will keep the wine fresh for an extra day or so but not forever. Many restaurants don’t like to throw wine away and will pour wine from bottles that have been open for too long. These wines take on a sherry like odor from the production of acetaldehyde and can be quite rotten. If the waiter is not willing to open a new bottle and replace your glass, it is time to change restaurants.
Wine terminology contains many lovely words for off odors found in wine. Horse blanket, wet dog and skunk are odors associated with harmless (but nasty smelling) bacteria introduced somewhere in the winemaking process. This is a problem that affects entire lots of wine so simply getting a new bottle will not usually make a difference.
While every wine fault can be prevented, be choosy and follow the philosophy that life is too short to drink stinky wine!