Wine faults aren’t your fault – or are they?

Detecting Wine FaultsOffering your guest a sample of wine before serving the bottle is standard procedure – but do you know why you’re doing this and what you should be looking for? Here’s our guide to understanding and identifying four of the basic faults that can affect wine.


When it’s not your fault

Sometimes a bottle of wine can be faulty before it even reaches your site. Two of the most common faults include:


Cork taint

Commonly referred to as a ‘corked’ wine, this fault is caused by a chemical compound known as TCA that can occasionally be found in the natural corks used to seal a bottle of wine. This compound reacts with the wine and contaminates it, giving it an overwhelming smell of damp cardboard or wet dog.

While many people think that only wines sealed with a natural cork can be tainted in this way, it’s important to remember that screw cap wines are not immune to this problem. The chemical compound can just as easily contaminate an oak barrel or another piece of equipment in the winery, so it is possible to have a corked screw cap wine.


While most people are aware that too much oxygen for a wine is bad (see oxidation below), many don’t realise that a small amount of oxygen is not only beneficial for a wine, but essential. Wine that has had too much contact with sulphur (a natural preservative used during the winemaking process) and not enough contact with oxygen can smell like boiled cabbage or rotten eggs. This smell can dissipate after a short period of aeration (like decanting), but if it sticks around then you know there’s a problem.


When it is your fault

Although wine has enough acidity and alcohol to ensure is doesn’t spoil easily, it doesn’t mean that it’s completely stable. There are a few absolute no-no’s when storing wine, in order to prevent any damage:



Once opened and therefore exposed to oxygen, the average bottle of wine will start to spoil within 24 hours. Pushing the cork back in the top, or screwing the top back on won’t slow this process much, so it’s important that once opened you are treating your bottles with care. Oxidised wines smell flat and start to turn brown in colour – white wines get an apple cider-like taint, while reds taste dry and bitter.

The key objective is to prevent the wine coming into further contact with oxygen, and the most common ways of doing this are using a vacuum system to pump out all the air, or using a wine preservation system to pump in an inert gas that forms a protective blanket over the wine – like Coravin, Le Verre de Vin or Enomatics. These can extend the shelf life of an open bottle to between three days for a vacuum system, up to several months for a good wine preservation system.

UV damage

Otherwise known as ‘lightstrike’, this is where UV light can adversely affect your wine. Looking at an average bottle of wine, there is a reason that most come in dark, tinted glass... UV light, both natural and artificial, can damage wine, most commonly making them smell like blocked drains. Wines bottled in clear glass are particularly prone to this fault, so think twice about where you are storing your prized rosé. Find out more about this wine fault and how to prevent it.

Want to learn more about wine? Take a look at our different training courses or contact your Account Manager.


19th January 2017

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Drink Aware - know the facts