There’s nothing sadder than a beautiful bottle of bad wine! You reach for the anticipated bottle, imagining that first smooth, silky sip, the aromatic nose and… What’s this? A funny smell? An unusual color? An odd looking cork? Did my once lovely wine turn into a bad vinegar?
In this article, we’ll look at three cork-related problems that can make a good wine go bad.
Bad Wine Reason #1: Corked Wine
Wineanorak provides this very good description of corked wine: “Have you ever opened a bottle, and instead of clean, fruity aromas found that it smells of moldy cellars and damp cardboard? This is what a corked wine smells like… It is a wine that has been contaminated by a chemical called trichloroanisole (TCA). The human nose is extremely sensitive to this contaminant (it can be detected at concentrations as low as parts per trillion!), which is a result of a chemical reaction between chlorine and cork. It is a major problem… [and] is why artificial corks are increasingly being used, especially on inexpensive wines not destined for ageing. The degree of cork-taint can vary, but you’ll find that almost all retailers will replace a corked bottle without question if you return it.”
Bad Wine Reason #2: Oxidized Wine
When a wine is exposed to too much oxygen, usually due to an inadequate seal, it breaks down chemically. The color dulls. The tastes get drier and more bitter and can take on some vinegar-like qualities. According to WineFolly, “Oxidization is the most common wine fault…, [and] white wines are much more susceptible to oxidization than reds, because reds’ higher tannin levels act as a buffer.”
Bad Wine Reason #3: Cooked Wine
If the cork is raised above the mouth of the bottle, whether the seal has broken or not, it has occurred because the wine has over-heated, or “cooked.” This expands the air in the bottle, pushing the cork out. Once again, according WineFolly, “The wine smells jammy: sort of sweet, but processed. The smell reminds me of canning or making wine sauce.”
It’s All about Taste
If all else fails, or more likely when tasting the wine is your final indication, go with the flavor. Don’t drink a wine that seems foul. If it is marginally vinegary, without a mousy or moldy smell, you might consider using it for cooking. Otherwise, dump it. Life is too short to drink bad wine, whatever the reason!