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Wine problems / Wine Faults.

How to spot a problem wine.
How often have you dared to say to the Sommelier (wine waiter) in the restaurant at which you are eating, 'I think this wine is faulty, please bring another bottle'? If the answer is never, then you are in the majority. When presented with a wine before I joined the wine trade, I would simply take a slurp when it was offered for me to taste, quiver a little under the gaze of the rather aloof gentleman with all manner of silverware hanging from his lapels, and say 'it's lovely', even if the wine tasted like unwashed rugby socks. I simply didn't know how the wine ought to taste.

A common thought when a wine tastes bad is that it has been poorly made. However, methods of winemaking have evolved significantly over the past twenty years, which has meant that fewer problems are derived in the winery. Wine merchants are also far more discerning in their selection and it is rare to find genuinely faulty wine on hotel and restaurant lists or the shelves of your supermarket. The most common fault is 'cork taint' (which develops in the bottle over time), or from poor methods of storage or transportation.

How to spot a problem wine before the cork is pulled.

Problems in wine can be detected both before and after the cork has been pulled, so whether buying for later or when dining out there are a number of signs to help you detect problem wines.

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Sign up to our free wine course - www.freewinecourse.com - for more
information on wine problems, as well as:

How to taste wine / How your senses work / Tasting practicalities
Tasting exercises / Blind tasting / Methods of wine scoring
Storage practices / Wine service / The effect of the grape on taste
The effect of location on taste / The effect of vine growing on taste
The effect of wine making on taste / The effect of the year on taste
Profiles of classical wine styles / The secrets of the label
Food and wine matching / Buying with confidence and more...

Plus a range of free interactive wine tasting tools including:
Wine tasting note tool / Food and wine matching tool / scoring tool

All online, in your own time and for free.
No pitch, no catches, no strings - just add your own wine!

www.freewinecourse.com

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The first step is to look at the unopened bottle. There are a number of clues to spot in or on an unopened bottle that may indicate a problem.

Cloudy Wine.
There are a number of possible reasons for cloudy wine:

1 - A contaminant from the winemaking process could be present, or the wine may have a secondary fermentation occurring in the bottle. Whilst both were occasionally found a few years ago, this is now seldom the case.

2 - White wines that are past their best will oxidise, turn brown and eventually develop a cloudy haze. Oxidation happens to apples when they are cut (bite into an apple, leave it for twenty minutes and see the results). The same will happen to wine, though you'll have to wait five to ten years with most white wines left in the bottle. Any white wine with a cloudy haze is worth avoiding unless it is a specialist unfiltered white, though it should mention this on the label.

3 - Cloudiness in a red wine may have been caused by sediment disturbed in transportation. The bottle should not be served at that point. If drinking at home, leave the bottle to settle for twenty-four hours and if it remains cloudy, it is best not opened at all and returned to where it was bought.

Wine seepage past the cork.
The sign is a sticky smear or drip coming from under the metal or plastic capsule covering the cork. The wine has been affected by excess heat or light and has effectively 'boiled' past the cork. The wine may not be past drinking, though care should be taken to check other bottles at the same location.

'Blown Corks'.
A bottle with a blown cork indicates the same problem as above; the wine has been heated to some degree. The sign is where the cork has raised above the lip of the bottle due to the pressure created by the wine expanding.

Brown wine (oxydised wine).
This occurs if air has been allowed to come in contact with the wine over a prolonged period, allowing oxidation to take place. This can happen either prematurely via a faulty cork, naturally when the wine becomes too old, or through poor storage. The most common reason is poor storage. Bottles should be stored with the wine in contact with the cork, which keeps it moist and avoids shrinkage. Oxidised white wines will appear a deeper colour of yellow than expected or brown when entirely oxidised. Reds will appear shades of brick orange to dirty brown.

Crystals in the bottle or on the inner end of the cork

These are compounds of tartaric acidity (cream of tartar), which occur naturally in all wine. Tartaric crystals form if the wine reaches too low a temperature, which might happen in transportation. They are not a problem at all and can even be a sign of quality in some instances. Many wineries avoid the possibility of these crystals appearing by filtering to a higher degree before bottling the wine. Others prefer not to as flavour can be lost in the process.

Some wineries that do not wish to filter highly sometimes state that 'wine diamonds' may appear in their bottles..

 

Mould under the metal or plastic capsule

This is common with older bottles and is not a problem. It should be removed with a cloth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noticing problem wines once the bottle is open.

A number of wine problems are undetectable until the cork has been pulled, though once it has and a fault is found, how do you know if it effects just the bottle that you're drinking, or all bottles of that particular wine?

Corked wine.

A corked wine is one that been affected by bacteria contained within the cork and occurs in isolated bottles. Although harmless it will give the wine a dank, musty smell and an unpleasant taste (think of damp garden sheds and old rugby or hockey boots!). Many wineries are now bottling with alternative plastic or screwcap stoppers. This practice is currently for inexpensive wines without a potential to develop in bottle, as higher quality wines, which are made to age, require a porous stopper to assist the development of character and flavour.

If a corked wine is found at a restaurant, the bottle should be returned. However, if you are drinking at home and the wine is only lightly affected, it may improve with a few minutes breathing. If one particular bottle is corked, it doesn't mean that other bottles of the same wine will be too. Try again. However, you may find this hard in a restaurant, as waiters are taught to offer a different wine instead, because if the customer were wrong in their assessment, to serve the same wine again would invite further criticism.

Older wines.

If smelling the bottle just after opening, an old wine can appear slightly musty due to the stale air trapped under the cork. The smell will disappear if given a few moments breathing time.

Vinegary wine.

If present, a particular bacterium can alter wine's acidity, eventually turning the wine to vinegar. This is more noticeable if a bottle is left open for too long, or the wine is too old, as the bacterium needs air to work. Another bottle may or may not contain the same fault depending on how the wine was kept.

Burnt match or eggy smells.

Almost all wine is made with the addition of sulphur. Sulphur is an essential wine additive, acting as a preservative and anti-oxidant and is generally unnoticeable, though it can sometimes be apparent if wine is being tasted shortly after bottling. This is characterised by a burnt match smell and should dissipate after airing. Infrequently, poorly made wine may smell of rotten egg due to winemaking problems involving sulphur.

********************************************************************************
Sign up to our free wine course - www.freewinecourse.com - for more
information on wine problems, as well as:

How to taste wine / How your senses work / Tasting practicalities
Tasting exercises / Blind tasting / Methods of wine scoring
Storage practices / Wine service / The effect of the grape on taste
The effect of location on taste / The effect of vine growing on taste
The effect of wine making on taste / The effect of the year on taste
Profiles of classical wine styles / The secrets of the label
Food and wine matching / Buying with confidence and more...

Plus a range of free interactive wine tasting tools including:
Wine tasting note tool / Food and wine matching tool / scoring tool

All online, in your own time and for free.
No pitch, no catches, no strings - just add your own wine!

www.freewinecourse.com

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Happy Tasting.

Francis Gimblett. Taste of the Vine

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