Just as bad things sometimes happen to good people, it’s possible for a bottle of wine to “go bad.”
Because wine does not come with a “use by” date stamped on the label, it can be difficult to detect a “bad” bottle before opening it.
The good news is that 95 percent of all wines have absolutely nothing wrong with them. Among bottles sealed with closures other than cork, that percentage is closer to 99 percent.
But every once in a while, the odds are that you will encounter a bottle of wine that just seems… off. These are the five most likely “afflictions”…
* CORKED. A condition caused by a cork that has been infected with a compound that tends to make the wine smell like wet cardboard.
* MADERIZED. When a wine is exposed to either too much heat or too much oxygen, it will become oxidized or “cooked.” The two most common causes are a cork that has become brittle, allowing oxygen to enter the bottle, and a bottle that has been stored in a not-cool-enough area. Wines that are “over the hill” – i.e., that have been kept for too long before opening, also exhibit this quality.
* FIZZY. Bubbles are good in Champagne, but not in still wines. Besides fizziness, a wine that has undergone a second fermentation in the bottle may also throw off an odor similar to sour cabbage.
* TARTRATES. These are small crystals, a form of tartaric acid, that sometimes are found in a wine bottle. The good news is that they do no harm to the wine. But they can be aesthetically annoying, which is why many wineries filter before bottling.
* BRETTANOMYCES. If you’ve ever encountered a wine with a barnyard-like aroma, the yeast strain commonly referred to by vintners simply as “Brett” is the likely culprit.