When good wine goes bad…
Dining out; I venture to guess that this innocuous phrase just evoked a passionate and well rendered memory of your last restaurant experience (for better or worse). Meticulously designed ambience, well-seasoned service professionals and carefully constructed plates of culinary artistry are elements of the dining experience leaving diners elated- or infuriated when confronted with even the slightest missteps.
A well paired bottle of wine is the great diplomat of your culinary adventure.
As wine ages it endures pubescent awkward phases, breathes and undergoes a metamorphosis in the bottle, or glass, of Kafkaesque proportions. These complex changes give us a wine experience most often rewarding, but it is not uncommon that wine presents flaws. As a consumer you should not drink ‘bad’ wine and have the right to address issues of a detectable flaw with the Sommelier, server or retailer in exchange for an unaffected bottle.
In a professional setting the server or sommelier will present the bottle prior to opening it. Check the label to ensure it matches the selection from the wine list with attention to the vintage-if it is not what you ordered, ask for an explanation. Upon opening the bottle, a small sample should be poured (1-2oz) and this is your opportunity to examine the integrity of the wine.
Listed below are several of the most common flaws:
Corked wine is the most common flaw presented to consumers. As early as a decade ago it was estimated 10-15% of natural cork was affected by the presence of a compound generated by mold found growing on wood (cork trees) known as Trichloroanisole (TCA). While that percentage has improved in recent years, the problem persists. When the TCA infected cork is in contact with wine it taints the product.
How to identify: Did you sniff the cork? I’ve handled thousands of corks pulled from intensely flawed bottles only to find that cork smells like…cork. Smell the wine! When opened and in contact with Oxygen the wine will present a dank moldy smell similar to moldy wet cardboard or newspaper. The musty characteristic will be found on the palate as well and the fruit will be diminished.
Few wines are meant for long term aging. After time, exposure to oxygen begins to degrade the juice creating a chemical breakdown. This applies to wine both opened and unopened. White wines will appear ‘orange’ in color when too old. Red wines are more conducive to age, and older red wines will take on a ‘brickish’ hue. Opened wines begin the quick descent and begin to show degradation in an average of 3 days.
How to Identify: Examine the color for hints of cloudiness or orange haze. The fruit characteristic of the wine has become unpleasantly sharp much like sucking on a penny or the taste of blood.
Wine has a delicate constitution and will become flawed if not properly stored. Ideally wines should be stored between 50-60 degrees. Exposure to high temperatures can destroy the composition of a wine in as little as 15 minutes.
How to identify: Liquids expand when heated. The pressure of heated air can cause the cork to begin to push up out of the bottle creating a detectable ‘bump’ between the cork and bottle neck. The cork itself will show veins of wine staining from the bottom. The juice will take on an unpleasant ‘tangy’ note like canned or cooked fruit. It can create a heavy and one dimensional effect to the feel of the wine on the palate.
Trust your instincts, particularly when you are familiar with the wine in question. Life is simply too short to drink bad wine!
Kuhlman wines are now available at several locations in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. We thank these amazing venues for supporting Texas Agriculture and look forward to bringing wine closer to you!
Dai Due-2406 Manor Road, Austin TX. 78722
Cripple Creek & Company- 928 Main Street, Bastrop, TX 78602
Cured- 306 Pearl Parkway #101, San Antonio, TX 78215
Bohanan’s Prime Steak & Seafood- 219 East Houston Street, San Antonio, TX 78205
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa- 23808 Resort Parkway, San Antonio, TX 78261
Houston Wine Merchant- 2646 S. Shepherd Dr., Houston, TX 77098