Why Does A Wine Turn Bad?




Yesterday I wrote a bit about a customer of mine who returned a wine to me as it had turned bad in the bottle before opening. It was much more to do with how I handled someone returning the bottle, so I flippantly mentioned that it was “corked” and that’s where the cork seal doesn’t work for whatever reason and lets oxygen in. It was a quick couple of lines to put the story into context. A few of you have (rightly) pointed out that that’s not exactly true. Well here it goes, a bit more of a run down on how wine can go bad!

TCA Taint (Main fault with cork stoppers)

Now this really is what people called “corked”. It’s where the wine smells and tastes a bit mouldy and stale. It has a lot less to do with the cork letting oxygen in. It’s actually that the cork itself is tainted by chemical reactions in the cork. Remember this is tree bark after all. What can you do if this happens? Not a lot, although luckily it’s increasingly rare as the big cork producers increase strict controls.

Reduction (Main fault with screw caps)

Funnily enough this happens much more with screw caps than anything else. The extra air trapped in the neck of the bottle “dulls” the wine over time. Try pouring the wine into a big jug for a few minutes to get fresh air to it, see if it livens up a bit. It might work if the taint’s not been there for too long.

Oxydation (Main fault in plastic stoppers)

This is where you open up a wine and it tastes like vinegar. It’s where the seal has failed at some point and let lots of fresh oxygen into the bottle. This happens a lot more with rigid plastic stoppers that don’t always follow the contours of the glass bottle neck. What can you do if you get this fault? Again, not much, this one’s going down the sink!

So there you go, a bit more spiel for you all on the wine taints. All you “I only ever buy screwcaps” brigade have got something to think on. And if you’re like me, where you think there’s still something very cool about the “pop” of a cork when you open it, maybe you can sleep a bit easier.




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