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How to tell if the wine is bad: a good glass will not save a bad wine

11 Mar 16

Wine is a complex art. So much influences its taste, the soil the vines are grown in, the climate, drainage, the fermentation and more. Wine connoisseurs can spend hours debating how a wine from neighbouring vineyards differ in quality and taste, but what is not always discussed is what kind of glass the wine should be served in. 

According to many sommeliers the shape of the wine glass matters. This is because wines react when exposed to air and the nose, body and structure of the wine will evolve differently depending on the glassware used. 

Claus Riedel, of the Riedel glass company, was the first person to shape a glass according to the character of the wine. He would change the rim, depth and diameter of the vessel to direct the wine to particular areas of the palate. A Riedel glass might be able to enhance a wine – giving it more complex smell and flavours, the one thing it won’t do is transform a bad wine into a good wine.

So how do you tell if your wine is bad? 

1)      How does it look?

Both red and white wine can change colour if it has been exposed to air. When Red wine becomes oxidized it loses some of its vivid red colours and begins looking brown. This is to be expected in aged wine, but if your bottle is a young one that is not a good sign. White wine can also turn brown, like an apple, when it is exposed to air. Browning in itself will not harm you it just means the wine has been under ‘stress’ and won’t be very palatable.

2)      It has bubbles and it’s not a sparkling wine

If it’s not billed as a sparkling wine then those little bubbles you can taste are bad news. That bit of fizz means there is some sort of unplanned fermentation going on – this won’t harm you but it will make the wine taste sour. If this happens ask for another bottle.

3)      What does it smell like?

What has happened to the wine will change the way it smells. If you smell apple sauce or nuts then the wine has oxidized.

Smells sharp or of vinegar? Then bacteria called acetic acid has turned the wine into vinegar. This happens usually when a bottle has been left open too long.

Is there a little less wine in the bottle than there should be? If so it’s likely that the wine has reduced and when opened it smells of cabbage and burnt rubber. 

If the wine has no aroma it could be that the wine is too cold. Use your hand to warm the glass and if after it has warmed there is still no smell there are two possibilities – low level cork taint or it may not have much flavour.

4)      The wine is corked

A wine is corked if the cork is ‘tainted’ this means that at some point the cork has had mould in it and released a chemical called TCA that reacts badly with the wine. Known in the industry as cork taint, a corked wine will normally smell of soggy cardboard or wet dog. If this happens send the wine back. Drinking corked wine is not harmful to humans but it does taste unpleasant. 

Are you holding a wine tasting event or a wine pairing dinner? Our collection of Riedel glassware offers a verity of glassware for a range of popular white and red grape varieties including Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and oaked Chardonnay.