Lookin' Good at 58

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some Wine Defects

We have all done it at one time or another when we open up a bottle of wine and notice something is not quite right at home. Or , at a restaurant everyone is laughing when the sommelier is waiting for someone to taste the wine to see if it is alright and the person tasting it has no idea what to look for other than just tasting it and swishing down the throat.

It is very rare a bottle of wine is bad nowadays as the high level of skill and expertise by winemakers everywhere and their advanced equipment is getting better and better year after year.

But just so you have some idea if you do come across a wine that is not good , here are some reasons it could be off.

Corked wine is the most common and is the reason why a lot of winemakers are turning to the screwtop or storvin it is called , and plastic as a means of replacing the cork. It is also a lot less expensive too. You can tell if a wine is corked if when you nose it you get a dank , musty smell to it reminding you of wet cardboard. If that is the case return it back immediately because it will only get worse when exposed to oxygen. This is caused by trichloroanisole or TCA which occurs when a cork has come in contact with chlorine and mould and been transmitted to the wine.

Another wine fault is when a wine smells of vinegar which indicates a high level of volatile acidity. In other words acetic acid caused by acetic bacteria. When you get a white wine that smells of nail polish remover , pear drops or banana it is not harmful but it is unpleasant to drink so send it back.

Another wine fault is if you get a white wine that smells of sherry you know by my recent blog on sherry that the wine is oxidized and although this is good for sherry it is not good for white wine. The same goes for red wines and this can be noticed by a stewed , flat smell.

Sulpher dioxide can be a fault in a wine due to it's overuse in the vineyards. Used as a preservative and disinfectant in winemaking , when it is overused it can flatten wine aromas and cause discomfort in the nose and back of the throat. Some are more sensitive than others to this and you know if you are when you nose the wine with excessive SO2 and it kind of takes you back and you get a real tingle in the nose and want to rub it right away. German wines and some sweet French wines have this trait with using a lot of sulpher dioxide but it does not occur as often as it used to. Asthmatics are the most affected by this fault.

Hydrogen sulphide which has a rotten egg , rubbery smell nose to it can be reduced by dropping a copper coin into the wine that has been decanted. Obviously if in a restaurant just send it back. But it is too late to try this if the hydrogen sulfide has digressed into smellier compounds called mercaptans which has a nose of boiled cabbage ( yummy , not! ) sewage or burned rubber.

Another fault that quickly dissipates is bottle stink which is like a tiny smell of sulfide on the nose which soon disappears once the bottle has been opened. A pleasant one is tiny bubbles in still wine which has no vinegary smell that is caused by CO2 which gives the wine a refreshing spritz. Like those nice Muscadet from the Loire or a crisp Riesling.

To summarize , if it smells bad there is a good chance it is. Look for wet cardboard , oxidative , stewed hot acetic smells , or rotten eggs , and if you get any of them send the bottle back.


SkippyMom said...

This is such wonderful, concise information. Thank you for sharing this in such a succinct manner.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

SkippyMom...thank you and happy to pass it on.

James Mortimer said...

Well summarised. I am always impressed with the vast depths of your knowledge. I do hope that you are appreciated in your workplace.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

James...Thanks. I am appreciated somewhat but I am underachieving right now. The place I work offers no real challenge and I am sort of bound there because of work schedule convenience going with my wife's work and the part time bartending course I teach. It is a corporate restaurant and I guess that says it all. A number I am.
I get nostalgic for fine dining once in a while where I can put some of what I learned back to work. I have to write my book this year and give that a go. That is what I should be doing on my free time.

bulletholes said...

Watched this moie yesterday called "Bottle shock"...Alan Rickman is great as a Wine guy....its right up your alley and you may well have already seen it...based on a true story, it would be good for you to post your vwersion of the story of chateau montelena!

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

Bulletholes...you gave me an idea of what to rent for a movie tomorrow night. I have heard of this movie. Thanks.