When good wines go bad
(a.k.a. wine faults)

Wine is almost always a good thing, but unfortunately, occasionally something goes wrong to make wine taste not as good as it should. It’s important to be able to recognise the most common wine faults that you will come across, so that you can tell the difference between faulty wine, and just bad wine.

It’s also really important to know that a faulty wine is like our faulty iPhone, you can take it back to the manufacturer and request a refund or replacement. Wineries will often require you to return a sample of the faulty wine, so it’s important not to tip that bottle down the sink.

We will describe the most common wine faults that we encounter, however there are plenty of other less common faults that we won’t cover. But as your knowledge of wine increases, you’ll get accustomed to what a wine should taste like, and if it doesn’t live up to expectations, it’s often worth asking the question of the winemaker, retailer or sommelier.

“Good wine can be negatively affected (“tainted”) during the winemaking and bottling process, from chemicals on the cork, due to closure failure or due to poor storage”

We were lucky these bad boys were still good after many years in the cellar

Photograph by Winerefined

“Corked” Wines

This DOES NOT mean that too much air has got past the cork.  It means that the wine has been tainted with a chemical called TCA.  This is usually from the cork (hence “corked”), but can come from other parts of the winemaking process, so it is possible to have a “corked” wine under screwcap.  Corked wine generally smells like wet carpet or wet hessian, or can just smell musty.  TCA also tends to strip the more lifted aromatics from the nose and fruit from the palate.

It is important to note in most legal jurisdictions, manufacturers and retailers are obliged to refund or replace faulty wine

Oxidised Wines

Wines become oxidised when they are exposed to too much oxygen, either through the winemaking process of because the cork has failed, allowing the ingress of additional air.  The colour will be dulled or browned, and pleasant fruit flavours diminished or gone.

You can be very well rewarded with Cellaring Champagne

Photograph by Winerefined

Cooked Wines

Storage of wine is all-important, and excessive heat can easily ruin a perfectly good wine.  There’s some debate about the temperature at which wine becomes terminal, but most agree anything above mid-20s is asking for trouble.  Not surprisingly, cooked wines can taste overdeveloped (older than their age), with flavours of cooked or stewed fruits


Brettanomyces or “Brett” as it is commonly termed is a naturally forming yeast found in the winery. Naturally growing on the skins of fruit levels of this yeast can also increase with contaminated barrels or relaxed winery management. Brett produces quite a large amount of acid and whilst the sensory compounds that are produced as a result can be pleasant to some giving it an aged character it is more likely to be seen as a wine fault. Common descriptors for these sensory compounds are things like ” old barnyard” ” old boots” and “smelly cheese” . None of which are things I look out for in my wine.

You can be very well rewarded with Cellaring Champagne

Photograph by Winerefined

Nick Ireland, Adelaide, South Australia
22 June 2016
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