The horror – you have just opened a bottle of one of your favs and something is off. It doesn’t smell or taste the way you remember it. Wine is a natural, living thing – so it is quite possible something has gone awry – but the upside is winemakers always replace faulty wine* and screwcaps lower the chances of wine faults. Rather than suffering through – try our little cheat sheet for the top suspects.
Cork taint or corked wine – caused by microbial fungi in natural cork that creates TCA (stands for 2,4,6-trichloroanisole). At higher levels, it smells mouldy or musky, a bit like wet cardboard or a damp basement. At lower levels, it strips the wine of its flavour and can be a bit astringent. It is only in natural cork – so screwcaps are a-ok – and it has nothing to do with crumbly corks or crystals. It can’t hurt you – it’s just a downer!
Oxygen has as many upsides as downsides – we need it to ‘let the wine breathe’, to open up the aromas in a wine when you decant, and a little is needed to help wine mature – but too much and it will fall over. Red wines lose colour and become flat – if you’ve every left out a glass overnight after a party – it starts to smell like copper and vinegar – that is ethanol (alcohol) becoming acetaldehyde. It can be a feature in oxidatively handled Port, Jura white wines or Sherry – but it can also give wine zero aromas and a lacklustre palate.
Ever left a bottle of wine in the car during summer? You might have cooked wine. Generally, wine can handle incremental temperature changes over the seasons – but diurnal (night to day) temperature shocks are bad news. The pressure from the heat in the bottle can push out the cork a bit – and the flavour will be like stewed fruit, burnt, caramel or just plain flat. Try giving it a decant and rest for half an hour – but if it’s still not right then just return it.
(Ref Vine Pair, Wine Spectator, Wine Mag)
*DRINK HAPPY POLICY: We guarantee a 100% drink happy wine policy, our curated packs are only what we would like to drink. However, we also understand that returns may happen due to bottle breakages, wines that aren’t quite right, and wines you simply did not enjoy. Just contact us for immediate credit or alternate replacement.