When to say ‘No thanks’ to wine
Have you ever wondered what you are supposed to do when the waiter in a restaurant, or the sommelier in some cases, brings you the bottle of wine you ordered and pours you a taste? Actually it is really simple; they are giving you an opportunity to refuse the wine because it is faulty. Again, you can refuse because the wine is faulty, not just because you don’t like it. Although, if it is faulty, I am pretty sure you wouldn’t like it. But unless you drink wine frequently and have experimented with regions and varietals, how do you know it is fault? After all, the fragrance commonly referred to as “barnyard” is a positive quality in many wines, particularly in Burgundy.
Knowing how to detect fault in wine is useful even if you do not get the opportunity to taste it before purchase. If the wine is indeed “bad,” it can be returned to a retailer for credit or refund. So knowing what to look for can enhance your wine drinking experience and keep you from spending good money on bad wine.When a wine is “corked” it means the wine has been infected with a fungus referred to as TCA. The only way to avoid getting a corked bottle of wine is to only purchase wine with a screw top or manmade cork; otherwise you just have to take your chances. But identifying one is important so that you can either send it back with the waiter or return it to a retailer. When the wine has been tainted with TCA you will experience a wet cardboard quality (like mushrooms) in the wine. It might be faint on the nose but will generally be more prominent once you taste it.”Cooked” wine is a common problem in the wine industry and is caused by poor storage or transportation problems. Heat is very bad for wine. Once it leaves the caring hands of the producer, the wine could end up sitting on a loading dock on a hot summer day or in the back of a sweltering truck.
When wine is exposed to heat, the liquid inside the bottle expands and pushes the cork out a bit. The wine may even leak through the cork. Either way, when the wine cools again it will contract, allowing air exposure and causing oxidation. Never buy a bottle where the top of the cork is not flush with, or below, the mouth of the bottle. If a cooked wine is poured for you, you can recognize it because it will taste, well, cooked. There will not be any freshness to the fruit and you should send it back.Oxygen is thought to be important to the development of wine. Over time the small amount of air in the neck of the bottle, and a minuscule amount that may seep through the cork, will help to evolve the wine. However, free contact with oxygen, whether through faulty winemaking or due to a faulty cork, will rapidly ruin a wine. Oxygen is aggressive and affects anything it comes in contact with, turning cut apples brown and steel to rust. If you get a wine that has oxidized, the fruit will be dull and come across as old. Madeira and Sherry are oxidized on purpose, but other wines should not taste like Sherry or Madeira.
Sulphur is a common preservative, but some wineries overdo it and the wine will remind you of striking a match. It will come across as musty and rubbery, not a positive thing in wine.These are the most obvious faults most wine drinkers will come across in their wine drinking experiences. It is OK to return a bottle to the waiter or a retailer. Trust your instincts, because chances are the staff knows less about wine than you do!Susanne Johnston is the owner of Frisco Wine Merchant. For more information, contact her at (970) 668-3153.
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