We often say that wine is alive, since it evolves over time until it is tasted. Unfortunately, the aging of wine does not always predict a good bottle, and the wine can develop defects, also called diseases. It is therefore important to know and know how to identify the faults of the wine , which very often have nothing to do with the appellation or the grape variety.
The faults of wine in visual analysis
There are many faults that a wine can present. From the visual analysis, certain signs may arouse your doubts:
- The color of the wine is dull : it is possible that the wine lacks acidity or is poorly balanced;
- Red wine has whitish or bluish particles : this defect reveals an excess of copper and iron, probably due to poorly cleaned equipment;
- Red wine has brownish particles : the grapes used for winemaking were harvested too late, their optimal maturity was exceeded and they were starting to rot;
- The wine shows a slight effervescence : the sparkling wine indicates that a second fermentation, non-voluntary for still wines, has taken place in the bottle;
- White wine has a very dark color or red wine is very brown: it is possible that the wine is oxidized.
Organoleptic defects of wine when tasting
If the visual appearance of your wine shows no signs of defect, then let's move on to tasting. Here again, many defects can be highlighted on the nose or in the mouth. Moreover, if the olfactory analysis reveals questionable aromas, it is very likely that you will find them in your mouth. Conversely, a wine that smells good does not mean it tastes good during taste analysis .
The faults of wine: oxygen problems
From harvest to bottling, there are multiple causes of wine defects , but the oxygen supply is responsible for a good part of them.
- Lack of oxygen : when a wine has an insufficient oxygen supply during vinification, what is called reduction occurs , which results in a smell of rotten eggs, dust or boiled cabbage, but also by a lackluster dress;
- Excess oxygen : a wine too exposed to oxygen can generate an odor of apple chard, when the ethanol is transformed into ethanal, or an odor of vinegar, when the oxidation of the wine is such that aromas remover or nail polish develop. In the latter case, we speak of volatile acidity .
The most common wine defects
We have just seen the main faults of a wine, which can be identified by eye or taste. But the most common problems are undoubtedly cork taint and rotten wine.
Cork taint is often the problem best known to the general public, but it is also the most feared by professionals and wine enthusiasts. This defect can be distinguished by this characteristic smell of wood, dust, wet cardboard, or even moldy cork. In the mouth, there is no doubt, the wine offers you no pleasure!
When faced with a corked wine , it is easy to blame the wine. However, he has nothing to do with this defect. The culprit is the cap, and in particular the trichloroanisole (TCA) it contains. This molecule, resulting from the chemical treatment of the cork , develops on contact with the mold formed on the cork, and then contaminates the wine.
It is therefore impossible to know if a wine is affected by this disease, and this defect concerns both small bottles and grand crus. Fortunately, technological progress now makes it possible to limit the proliferation of TCA on cork stoppers, but there are also alternatives to this material, such as the plastic stopper or the screw cap.
In oenology, rot is often a major ally, as is the case with noble rot. On the other hand, other rots can also develop and cause harm to the grapes, such as gray rot . In general, this disease destroys the berries, but if they are nevertheless harvested and vinified, the resulting wines will not have any fresh aroma. We then talk about rotten wines.
Other wine defects that are easily identifiable
Other, less frequent, defects can also develop and damage the wine, whether red wine, white wine or rosé wine.
- Phenyl wine : when brettanomyces, a yeast naturally present in cellars and vineyards, develops, we find a red wine with the smell of horses, stables, wet dogs, or even burnt plastic;
- Maderised wine : when wine bottles are stored in the light, upright, or in the heat, the structure of the wine is impacted. The wine then smells of rancid butter or chard apple. We speak here of a “taste of light”;
- The smell of sulfur : used to stabilize and preserve wine, sulfur dioxide (SO2) must be dosed sparingly, at the risk of developing aromas of cracked matches.
When the wine turns sour
Wine that turns sour is one of the major faults known to all, just like cork taint. For good reason, it is almost impossible not to notice it.
The culprit behind a wine's vinegary taste is acetic acid . If this component is present in all wines in small quantities, it can ruin everything when it is too imposing.
The excess acetic acid then comes from prolonged oxidation during winemaking, and generates what is called volatile acidity . The wine then develops aromas of nail polish remover or nail polish. We thus speak of piqued wine, acetic bite, or acescence.
Good to know: if you leave a bottle of wine open for too long, acetic acid will irremediably develop, and the wine will become undrinkable.
Are the faults of wine really irrecoverable?
It must be admitted that throwing away a good bottle of wine always hurts the heart. So can we make up for the fault in a wine ? Fortunately, this is the case for some defects, but not for all. Sometimes, it is enough to decant the wine for a few hours. Ventilation can then allow unpleasant aromas and odors to disappear. But this is not always possible.
Wine faults that can be corrected
There are 3 wine defects that you can recover from in just a few hours of aeration:
- The reduction ;
- Phenyl wine;
- The smell of sulfur.
Irreversible wine defects
On the other hand, certain wine defects are irrecoverable, even after several hours of aeration in a carafe. In these cases, there is no other solution than to throw away the wine:
- The smell of chard apple;
- Corked wine;
- Maderised wine;
- The smell of vinegar.
Do not confuse the style of a wine and the faults of a wine
Appreciating a wine is above all a question of taste and perception. Thus, when tasting a wine , some may perceive a defect, while others will perceive it as a quality, a particularity. Moreover, some winegrowers work their wines in such a way that they develop aromas considered by many to be defects.
The sparkling wine
Remember, sparkling wine is a wine that has a slight effervescence. If we classified it among the defects that a wine can present, this characteristic can also be perceived as a quality. Some appellations of controlled origin even make it their trademark. We then find very pleasant fresh and lively young wines, such as Vinho Verde.
As we have also seen, excess oxygen can be fatal for wine. However, some winemakers deliberately oxidize their wines, to develop specific aromas of caramel, dried fruits and nuts. The dosage is obviously extremely careful, and oxidized wines are the result of precious know-how. Among the most famous oxidized wines, we know the yellow wine of Jura, Rivesaltes, Banyuls, or even Spanish Sherry.
The special case of natural wine
Natural wine qualifies as being a wine which has undergone as little human intervention as possible, whether in the vineyards, during vinification, and even in the cellars. However, the hand of man and the various interventions, such as the addition of sulfur, generally make it possible to fight against the development of diseases and the appearance of defects.
Natural wine therefore does not benefit from this protection, and often develops very specific aromas, such as the taste of rancidity, vinegar or chard apple. If these characteristics can be perceived as faults, true lovers of natural wines appreciate them, and are looking for precisely this type of aromas.
We often think that only great wine lovers know how to recognize the faults of a wine . However, the majority of them are very easily identifiable. You will now know how to put a name to the characteristics of a wine that has a defect.