Is light ruining your wine?

LightstrikeJust when you thought you were aware of the faults that could occur in a bottle of wine, think again. You may be familiar with words like oxidised and cork taint – and are starting to feel more comfortable spotting these issues – but have you heard of lightstrike?

This occurs when wine is subject to either sunlight or fluorescent light, and can take place in a shop window, on a supermarket shelf or even the display on a back bar – and it doesn’t take too long to happen.

The science behind the problem is that the amino acids in the wine change into really smelly compounds. The fruit flavours become tainted and develop into foul smells of cabbage and wet cardboard.

Lightstrike is becoming a much talked about issue. So is it happening more often, or are we just becoming more aware of the quality and condition of the wines we are drinking?

The importance of packaging

Correct storage and position of wine bottles are important, and so is the colour of the bottle. Clear glass bottles only give 10% protection from light, compared to green glass at 50% and amber at 90%. Just think about vintage Port in its familiar dark bottles, or top Champagne houses ensuring their fizz is boxed or wrapped in coloured cellophane.

But all styles and products don’t lend themselves to this kind of protection. In a market where packaging is increasingly important, does anyone really want to look at rosé in a murky green bottle?

We conducted an experiment...

Our Training Team decided to put lightstrike to the test – a bottle of sparkling rosé (one of the most susceptible styles of wine to this fault) was left on a windowsill for over a week.

Head of customer training, Julia Bailey, explains what happened: “Upon opening the wine it smelt really off – the fruit character was muted and the wine had an overwhelming smell and taste of blocked drains and rotten cabbage. It will have been affected by the bright sunlight, but it was also likely influenced by artificial office lighting.”

How can you avoid it?

This wine fault is irreversible, meaning that prevention is key. So what can you do to prevent the spoilage?

Julia suggests, “Store bottles more likely to be affected (those in clear glass) away from bright sunlight or artificial lighting. Make sure that if you have lighting in your fridges that the stock is rotated fast enough. Be cautious about that bottle of Prosecco rosé that has been at the back of the brightly lit fridge for months… If you have bottles on display, make sure they’re dummy bottles – or never intend to serve that stock to customers!”

For more on wine faults and how to prevent them, visit our Training page or contact the Training Team.

27th October 2016

Company No. 2550982 | 109a Regents Park Road London NW1 8UR | Call: 0845 263 6924 | AWRS Number: XVAW00000101595

Drink Aware - know the facts