Bad to the bottle: What to do when good wine goes bad

Allison Goodan

Some of the greatest wines become tainted. Yes, tainted, and we will refer to these bad wines as wine flaws.

Once this happens, there is no turning back.

These outlaws are sent to an island far away. Not really, but there is no remedy for a tainted wine.

Whether the wine is infected from bacteria or bad yeast, perfectly great wines can be ruined from something growing in the barrel or bottle.

Extreme sanitation is key during the processes of winemaking. It is important to know about what can go wrong as a wine connoisseur, and here, we will discuss four ways in which this sad thing can happen.

The first wine flaw we will cover is something you may avoid as it can be observed before you buy the wine.

Maderization happens when wine has been heated during transportation from the vineyard to the store. You can tell this by a risen cork.

If the cork is not level with the glass spout, or has pushed or broken the foil seal — do not buy it.

If you happen to miss this, or take home a screw cap wine that has become maderized, the wine will taste as though the life has been drained, or dead, as you could imagine a fresh grape tastes verses a cooked grape.

The second offense is oxidization. This means that air has entered the bottle from a bad closure. Oxidation is good in small amounts as it is purposefully activated by swirling wine after pouring, but too much oxidation makes the wine taste like vinegar.

Oxidation is quite obvious from the first sip.

Thirdly, the wild yeast brettanomyces makes a scene. This is harder to detect as a new wine connoisseur because in small amounts brettanomyces is desirable, but too much and the wine gets a leather, wet saddle or barnyard taste.

The worst offense of wine flaws has been dubbed the name “corked.”

Many wines have been corked literally, but the particular phrase “this wine has been corked” does not mean the bottle contains a cork. It means the wine has been infected with a bacteria called trichloroanisole (TCA.)

This bacteria grows on the cork after bottling, and infects everything inside. Corked wine smells stale like wet cardboard, newspaper or a basement. It completely kills the smell of fruit in the wine.

The smell can be so strong that learned wine drinkers can identify a corked wine immediately after opening, or from across a room.

Hopefully you never come across one of these wines, but you probably will over the course of a lifetime if you enjoy drinking wine.

If you believe your bottle has been infected, simply take it back to the place of purchase and receive a store credit or get your money back. The store doesn’t lose money as they get a credit from their distributor, so don’t feel bad about it.

Happy, untainted drinking to you.