Wine Flaws

Wine is a living thing and it continues to change all the time, even while in the bottle.
⁠And like any living thing, they may come with some flaws!

These wine flaws are easy to detect by their unpleasant or ‘off’ smell and most retailers or restaurants are happy to take the wine back if you bring it to their notice. But remember, a flawed wine is different from a wine you don’t like! ⁠

If your wine smells like any of the items in the picture, it may be a faulty wine. Keep reading to know more.

Here are 6 common types of wine flaws :⁠

1. Cork Taint or Corked – When you open a bottle of wine and it smells of mould, wet dog or wet cardboard, it may be because of the cork taint. Sometimes a mould can form on the cork due to contact with the chemicals used in the winery. It can also come from unclean barrels or other production equipment and spoil the wine.⁠

2. Oxidation – Oxygen is wine’s frenemy. A little bit is good for opening it up and that is why we decant or swirl the wine, but if the wine is exposed to a lot of oxygen, the wines lose their fruit aromas and smell like must, vinegar or nail paint. Prolonged contact with oxygen also impacts the colour of the wine. White wines become darker in hue and red wines become brick colour. This is also one of the reasons wines don’t last for more than a few days once opened.⁠

3. Cooked wine or Light Strike – A wine that has been exposed to high temperatures or UV light due to incorrect storage or transportation gets cooked! It smells of overripe stewed fruits, jammy (not in a good way) or stale. So avoid buying wines stored in the shop windows or directly under a light. ⁠

4. Sulphur – If the wine smells like a burnt matchstick, rotten egg, or burnt rubber, it may mean Sulphur hasn’t been integrated into the wine properly. Sulphur is a naturally occurring by-product of fermentation and some amount of sulphur is also added to stabilise the wine. Decanting may sometimes help in getting rid of the smell. ⁠

5. Reduction – This is the opposite of oxygenation when the wine is bottled with little exposure to oxygen. It smells like rotten eggs or clogged drains and sometimes decanting the wine may help in getting rid of the aromas and in providing exposure to oxygen.⁠

6. Brettanomyces – Some people like the smell of farmyard, hay and horse in a wine while some consider it a fault. Caused by a yeast, brett adds a layer of complexity with the farm-like aromas but dulls the fruit aromas of the wine. This may not always be considered a flaw, depending on the winemaker’s and wine drinker’s preference.⁠

Have you ever returned a faulty wine or poured it down the drain?⁠

The best way to understand more about the wine flaws is to keep trying all kinds of wines. Just remember :⁠

1. A faulty or flawed wine is different from the wine you don’t like!⁠
2. If at a restaurant and not sure about the wine flaw, check with the sommelier.⁠
3. Some faulty aromas can dissipate with decanting. Let the wine breathe before dismissing it altogether. ⁠


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