Bad Wine

Learning what wine flaws smell like


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Bad Wine
There are many potential flaws in bad wines, and the sad part is that, more often than not, a bad wine's flaw is so subtle that it ruins our experience without us even knowing -- well, almost. Most of the major flaws found in a bad wine are pretty distinctive, and getting to know them can help you separate the good wines from the bad wines.

It would be great for everyone involved if we all could tell a corked wine from a truly bad wine, and knowing the difference can end up saving you money whether you are returning a bottle out on the town, or bringing it back to a retailer. Get to know what’s wrong with your wine! Learn about bad wine!

Mentioned in this article


  • Thank you for your daily articles. There are times when I would like to print the entire article for reference later. Is it possible to do that without having to copy each section?

    Oct 20, 2010 at 1:12 PM

  • More often THAN not ... sheesh

    Oct 20, 2010 at 4:52 PM

  • Snooth User: Wyverrn
    537756 5

    I would imagine not, because you you won't get to see all the advertisers...still well worth it though.

    Oct 20, 2010 at 5:16 PM

  • Snooth User: Bigguy49
    573758 2

    I have also complained about the "Powerpoint" method of presentation on another one of the threads but it did not garner any response. My guess is management DOES NOT read the responses. I too like to print for reading at leisure. Maybe you can print the full article if you work your way to the end of the presentation.

    Oct 20, 2010 at 5:33 PM

  • sometimes a wine is very corked initially. Then after a while the corkeffect is gone (at least the detectable part of it) how can that be possible ?

    Oct 20, 2010 at 5:46 PM

  • Great article that takes kind of techie jargon and makes it quick and easy to understand. This was a nice brush up on the different faults for me, too.

    Oct 20, 2010 at 5:53 PM

  • Snooth User: parksl62
    616972 1

    I really love your daily news articles, they are concise, efficient and informative! I would really like to be able to print these out for future reference, but there doesn't seem to be a way to do this, do you think that will be possible in the future sometime soon?! Thank you.
    Linda, Portland, OR

    Oct 20, 2010 at 8:09 PM

  • great article!

    Oct 20, 2010 at 8:33 PM

  • Snooth User: ehguy11
    214073 25

    The strangest aroma I ever got from a bottle of wine was of strong hair dye! It was a Spanish red. Nasty aroma, but it dissapated somewhat after about an hour and we drank it.

    Oct 20, 2010 at 8:48 PM

  • For some of us urban dwellers, analogies with horses and skunks are a little challenging.

    As with positive elements of a bouquet, could future analogies be a bit less rural?

    Now, excuse me while I seek treatment for my nose, injured while trying to detect the fragrance of a struck match...

    Oct 21, 2010 at 10:58 AM

  • Am I the only one who noticed the grammatical error in the very first sentence of this article: "...more often THEN not..."? Seriously, if you're going to write for a living, please learn the difference between "than" and "then". You lose all credibility right off the bat with such errors.

    Oct 21, 2010 at 12:48 PM

  • Snooth User: johnmmoore
    170772 16

    The question from thomashedstrom is a good one - basically how an off smell can be detected but then seem to disappear. There is a fancy word for this that escapes me, but the olfactory can acclimate to a smell, sometimes quite quickly for some scents, and cease to detect it. I had this demonstrated with a corked bottle - very obvious on the first whiff, but then harder to pick up on the second and third. And I only noticed a strong Brett (bandaid) smell in a Pinot after the second glass - maybe as it opened up, the Brett bouquet became elevated. And, of course, detection levels vary among people, and some flaws, like TCA, are much more obvious in some wines (e.g. Riesling) than others. Taber's "To Cork or Not to Cork" is a deep dive into wine closures, and he hits on several flaws in wine including TCA, reduction, Brett, etc.

    Oct 21, 2010 at 4:12 PM

  • Snooth User: imasngr
    530493 3

    Love the pictures, esp the horse and skunk.

    Nov 13, 2010 at 3:06 PM

  • The easiest way to tell whether a wine is corked is to detect whether it smells or tastes of cork. You can usually tell by sniffing but either way, this is why the sommelier offers you a taste of the wine before he pours it. Once he's opened the bottle, he's not offering you the opportunity to check whether you've made the right choice between a '74 and a '93, both 'good years' according to the internet page on how to order wine that you looked up before leaving the house. The idea that more than one person in a 100 will have the faintest idea what he's doing in choosing from a wine list of names he doesn't recognise is ludicrous. Buy a wine you can afford (it'll be hugely marked up anyway). If you want to drink red with fish or white with your burger, go ahead. Either way, you have to drink what you chose if it ain't corked, even if your date is wrinkling her adorable nose because of some other perceived defect. You can get advice on what is sweet and what is dry but basically, the quality of your bottle of wine is like the chef's food - pot luck. Bon appetit.

    Oct 04, 2012 at 2:51 PM

  • Snooth User: dan545
    1154999 18

    so what are the tips? Don't drink stinking wine? Think I could have worked that one out

    Nov 01, 2012 at 12:14 PM

  • Snooth User: Steve Mirsky
    1105166 260

    When the cork crumbles as you're twisting the corkscrew, don't necessarily write off the wine inside. My first impression was yuck! But let it breathe & try it's definitely yuck or closed

    Mar 13, 2013 at 9:04 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 4,006

    Skunky smells can also be compared to very pungent marijuana buds, for those of you in urban areas... although my particular urban area has no shortage of skunks, either.

    And while I agree that Greg's copy should see a copy editor besides himself (everyone should have someone proofread them if they are writing professionally), he's writing about wine, not composing a style manual, so let's not say he loses all credibility. Sounds like something a troll from another site might write. Anyone want to trace that TCP/IP address?

    Mar 14, 2013 at 4:50 PM

  • Wine enthusiasts should learn first-hand about "corked" early in their wine careers so that they can recognize it immediately and reject the bottle. Unfortunately, that is tough to do, unless a known corked bottle is presented. I have tasted two identical bottles of one-year old wines from a California winery that I know well and respect, only to have the first smell terrible while the second was excellent. Some tasters would never get past the first bottle and would label the whole winery as terrible.

    I have also tasted wines (at a Mendosa bulk winery) where ALL qualities suffer from an objectionable odor, obviously from the huge casks that they use for all their wines. (The only difference in qualities is the time in the cask, No barrels are used! They clean the casks every five years!!)

    I recommend further reading in "The Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition ".

    Aug 03, 2013 at 5:32 PM

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