By Bentley’s Grill Wine Steward, Mark Jacklich
Every once in a while you get a bottle of wine that just isn’t up to par, be it a bottle you haven’t tried before or one that you drink regularly. If it is one that you are familiar with, then the flaw might be easier to put your finger on. With that being said there are several ways a wine can go bad.
1) If the bottle employs a natural cork it is very possible for the cork to be the culprit. Bad cork often leads to oxidation and a wet card board smell or as I say, “it smells like how metal tastes”.
2) Another indicator would be a sense of bubbles or effervescence on the tongue. With young whites this is often left over CO2 from the initial fermentation, usually done intentionally and most times refreshing. However, with red wines this is a winemakers mistake and a sign of a secondary fermentation that has taken place in the bottle.
3) Your best bet for “sniffing” out a bad wine is with no surprise, your nose. To nose for any spoilage, you will be looking out for odd odors such as rotten eggs or garlic (Hydrogen Sulfide), band aid, barnyard or horse stable (Brettanomyces), moldy or musty (cork taint), nail polish or vinegar (high volatile acidity). Most of these are a result of poor wine-making techniques or barrel storage conditions.
With the serving of wine so steeped in tradition and habit, the days of determining a bad wine by its cork have somewhat gone. Back before fancy labeling all wineries had was their cork to brand their wine, thus signifying the standard that they had established. Nowadays with synthetic corks and screw-caps it is difficult to deem a wine bad by simply sniffing the cork. However when you are served a glass your first line of defense is your nose. If one of the above indicators is present I recommend not subjecting your taste-buds and palate to the same abuse your nose just took!