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Bad Bottle Alert: Corked Wine!

Staying appropriate for this discussion, there is nothing worse in life than opening a bottle of wine and it turns out bad. It could smell like a wet dog, cardboard, newspaper, in some cases, nitrogen or even rotten egg. Gross! If you ignore the warning signs of the awful smell of the nose and then had the audacity to taste that bad wine?! Double GROSS!! Then there are some who will skip the aroma and the taste and actually want to swallow that bad wine?! That person has no respect for him/herself…TRIPLE GROSS!!! It’s none other than corked wine.

Have you had any of these ever scenarios occur while opening a bottle of wine?! I want to save your palette by giving telltale signs of ways of avoiding destroying your taste buds. Before you open that bottle of wine, remember where you purchase the bottle of wine. We will discuss buying the wine at a retail shop, a wine bar, and then bad signs while opening the bottle of wine at home. This blog is not designed for the consumer to be a hypochondriac and question themselves each time they open a bottle of wine. I want to provide the reader the opportunity to notice these unforeseen circumstances and “Develop the Sommelier in You”.


Buying at the Wine Shop

You enter into the Wine Shop and see red wines on shelves while chilled wines and beers are located in cooled refrigeration. You see a special room with all of the “Upscale” and “Rare” bottle of wines in a different temperature. All red wines should be chilled at all times around 55-60 degrees without long-term damage. When red wines are not flying off the shelves, they sit normally in room temperature (72 degrees).  These wines are at risk of spoilage by beginning to cook and creating off flavors in an indefinite amount of time. The chilled wines and beers should always be around 45-50 degrees. Like red wines, these beverages spoil quickly or create an “off” flavor as soon as the temperatures increase.


Buying at the Wine Bar

A great way for Wine Bars to keep the wine flavors consistent are pressurized dispensing machines which has the consumer purchase many “tastes” the wine. For red and white wines, the wine can turn and produce off flavors after one day. Like buying wines in a wine shop, red wines should be kept around 55-60 degrees while white wines at 45-50 degrees. For sparkling wines, the wine’s bubbles can flattened out in an hour. How do you notice the difference in flavors?  The wine’s freshness subsides.

Another way wine bars tend to keep their wines from spoiling are the usage of nitrogen gas into bottle to prevent oxygen from spoiling the wine.  At the end of the night, it takes the wine bar staff just a minute to inject this gas into the wine.  This method could make the wine last another day or two.  If the wine is flat or taste old, ask the staff to replace the wine.  If they don’t, you probably shouldn’t be there in the first place.


Opening a Bottle of Wine at Home

When you are at home, you really don’t know if the wine is kept appropriately until it reaches your hands. In the meantime, refrigerate the red for 20 minutes if at room temperature before opening to achieve optimum. White and sparkling wines, meanwhile, should always be chilled. If the bottle of wine feels hot, throw away because the flavors may be permanently destroyed.

Grab that wine key and take remove the foil. (If you need a little assistance on opening a bottle of wine, please check out “How to Open a Bottle of Wine” in Sommelier Mechanics.)  One sign is when separating the top foil from the bottle is stuck to the wine. If dried wine appears out of the bottle, throw it away. Once the foil is okay and gone, take a look at the top of cork. If there is no wine seeping out, continue to open the bottle of wine.


The Awful Surprise: Corked Wine!

At this point, the cork is the biggest sign of how the wine is taken care of. If the cork is stuck to wine and having difficulty pulling the cork out, it could either be an inexpensive bottle or the cork has dried up. If the cork has dried up, there’s a chance that air could channel through or the wine is spoiled. Once the cork is out, smell it. If it smells like cardboard or wet dog, throw the wine away. Also look at the color of the cork. If the cork is green or orange, expect the wine to be not poorly kept. Next, pour the wine and smell the glass. Do you smell the cardboard or wet dog?! If not, keep going. Finally, taste the wine.  If the flavor is bitter and vinegar-like, you know what to do.

These scenarios are not only dreadful for the consumer who buys the wine, sommeliers like me endure just like you do. The very purpose for this blog is to get into the mindset of a Sommelier and be able to see these signs of a spoiled wine.  The only thing worse than throwing the wine away is to return the wine back to the location where you buy or receive the wine to get a new one. Quadruple GROSS!!!!

*The blurred image in the blog hides the identity of corked wine bottle. RIP


Mario Luna
Certified Sommelier
“Wine Education for Real Life!”

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