Is that Bottle of Wine old or just plain bad?

How can you tell if a wine is bad? There might be nothing wrong with the wine, the problem might be you…or is it really the wine? The following tips are indicators that the wine is not bad, it might be your taste-buds…

What does not constitute a bad bottle

  • A bottle is not bad just because you don’t like the wine. There are many variations in wine-making style, so a bottle that doesn’t suit your preferences is not necessarily defective. Of course, the sommelier should help you select a bottle that’s to your liking, but ultimately only you are responsible for your personal tastes.
  • A bottle is not bad just because the label is damaged. Most wine travels thousands of miles to get to you, and there are plenty of opportunities for bumping and grinding. Likewise, in a cellar where thousands of bottles are stored together, one bottle can break, leaking wine onto hundreds of others. This does not affect the wine inside the intact bottles.
  • A bottle is not bad just because it has little white crystals accumulated at the bottom or adhering to the corkamorimcork Is that Bottle of Wine old or just plain bad?
    by Amorim Cork
    . These crystals (called tartrate) are a natural by-product of unfiltered, unprocessed fine wines and are totally harmless.
  • A bottle is not “corked” just because it has bits of cork in it (all this means is that an inexperienced waiter pushed the corkscrew all the way through the cork, thus forcing pieces into the wine) or because it has an unsightly or even moldy cork.

There are four things that constitute defects in a bottle of wine such that you should send it back

A wine is properly said to be corked when it has come in contact with a contaminated cork during the aging process. The results of this contamination are almost always unmistakable: The wine will smell like a wet basement after a flood or dirty socks left in the hamper a little too long: moldy, nasty and not at all enticing to the taster. On the palate, it will be astringent, lacking in fruit, with a raspy finish. Sometimes you may even notice a paint-thinner quality. You cannot, however, discover a corked wine by smelling the cork. Many fine wines have issued from bottles with funky-smelling corks, and vice versa.

Oxygen is wine’s invisible enemy, and when a wine gets exposed to air, it becomes “oxidized.” The result is flat, lifeless wine that loses its pretty, vibrant fruit scents and tastes insipid — it will likely remind you of vinegar. The trained eye will also often notice a certain dullness in the colour. In whites, it can be light to dark yellow or even brownish. It is much less obvious in red wines.

Heat is another destructive force exerted on wine, usually as a result of bad storage. When one says a wine is “maderized,” it has been literally baked (this often happens in the holds of cargo ships as they cross the oceans in summertime). It actually tastes like Madeira and is reminiscent of almonds and candied fruits — admirable qualities in dessert wines but unacceptable in dry wines. You may also notice, in the unopened bottle, that the cork is pushed partly out of the neck (due to expansion within).


Fine wine is a living thing, the product of controlled fermentation. Occasionally, some residual, dormant yeasts will wake up, and a wine will undergo a second fermentation after it has been released and shipped. This manifests itself as effervescence, or fizziness, on the tongue. Of course, this is desirable in champagne (which is purposely refermented in the bottle in order to create the bubbles), but never in fine still wine.


read more on Featured