Friday, March 9, 2012

How-To: Tell if your Wine has Gone Bad

When a server pours you the splash of wine from the bottle you've just ordered, this isn't to test to see whether you "like" the wine. In fact,you're actually being asked to test whether the particular bottle has "gone bad."

Cork can carry bacteria that spoils the wine while it is in the bottle. While the wine remains completely safe to drink, it will have noticeable odors and flavors that make it unpleasant to do so. A "corked" bottle of wine will smell like mold, wet newspaper, cardboard, wet dog, or just simply cork. During a recent tasting of a particularly precious bottle that had "corked", the instructor encouraged us, even with the corked taste, to not let the glass go to waste. (This is not always going to be the case.) Tina didn't recognize the corked flavor (her palate recognized "delicious"), although Nate picked up on it right away.

Other smells and flavors can ruin the taste of wine for some, but aren't always considered a flaw. Aged Rieslings can acquire a strong smell of petrol, rubber, or even "cat pee" that can be off-putting, but is sought after by some connoisseurs of the varietal. A green pepper flavor is considered to be a technical flaw in the production, but can add an interesting flavor note. One time we purchased a bottle from our local wine store and upon opening it discovered a most foul ethanol smell that made it difficult to drink, and sometimes with homemade, artisanal wines, a sulphuric smell lingers. 

If you feel something is "off" with your bottle, ask the server to check it. They will be more versed in whether it's "normal" for this particular wine, or whether a bottle has "gone bad."

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