While away for a couple of days I called into a wine store, to buy a bottle of wine for my hosts, who were kind enough to offer a weary friend a couch when his original accommodation plans fell through, will perusing the shelves as only a wine-dork can I overheard a very funny conversation: A man who wished to return an open bottle of wine that had a fault, in this case it had a serious dose of Brettanomyces, it smelled like my sisters pony after a heavy rain shower( I asked the staff for a whiff after the man had left). The staff were very obliging and replaced the bottle in question with another; the same grape and producer but a newer vintage, with a screw cap. The man instantly thought he’d been fobbed of with a cheaper wine and demand a corked bottle of wine! Que the chuckles from another couple in the shop and I admit from myself. Here we had a man demanding a corked bottle of wine after returning a bottle with Brettanomyces, brilliant, when the shop assistant explained that he only had that particular bottle in screwcap and the chances of faults such as corked wines were reduced the poor man went a rather bright shade of scarlet. This nearly made up for my accommodation issues.
Below I have listed a few wine faults and there common aromas.
1) Cork Taint, and this is not bits of cork in your wine! To recognise it you should expect to smell a damp mustiness rather like the mould on old bread or a wet dog. Sometimes the cork taint is more prevalent when the wine is tasted rather than smelt. A very tainted wine is completely undrinkable – although harmless. Opinions differ on how often cork taint appears but the consensus seems to be that it occurs in 3-10% of bottles.
2) Refermentation This can happen when the wine contains residual sugars. Usually leads to cloudy or fizzy wines with an odd smell of yeast.
3) Acetic Spoilage, the fancy way of saying your wine is now vinegar, how to tell well it smells like vinegar!
4) Oxidation. Letting a red wine breathe often helps it release its flavours, but leave it breathe to long and it loses its qualities. This is where air has got into the bottle via a faulty seal or where the bottle has been left open for too long. It sometimes occurs where the wine was not correctly protected from exposure to the air when it was made. Whatever the reason, the wine usually has a slightly metallic or sherry like nose and tastes flat, tired and insipid. Affected white wines also tend to have a rather golden colour.
5) Excess Sulphur Dioxide. Sulphur Dioxide is very useful in winemaking as an antioxidant and antiseptic. However, in excess it gives a very unpleasant smell and taste, similar to that of a struck match.