If you love wine as much as I do, you know how much of a tragedy it is for wine to go bad. But before you have the unpleasant experience of actually tasting a bad wine, familiarize yourself with the signs of bad wine. Wine will typically go bad if it has been open for too long. Here is one general rule for wine. If it’s open a week, it is past its peak. Follow this simple rule with the exception of fortified wines such as port or sherry.
Wine that has gone bad will look, smell, and taste a bit off. Wine left open, and sadly gone untouched, will begin to change color. Deep red wines will become browner and the air exposure will cause the wine to oxidize. A white wine will also take on a brownish muddy color. It will be cloudy and leave an unsightly film in the bottle or glass. If there’s any fizz or bubbles present (and it’s not a sparkling wine), this is a sign that the wine has gone through a secondary fermentation. If you’re curious you can always take the same two bottles of wine and do a little experiment. Take one of the bottles and leave it open for a few days, then compare it to a fresh unopened bottle. You should notice that the wine left open will have more of a brownish tint.
For me smelling a wine is the easiest way to tell if it’s gone bad. There are several things I look for when I take my first sniff. If I smell cardboard or wet dog, most likely the wine is corked. This is a sign that there could have been mold growing on it. Even just a little bit of mold will significantly alter the taste of the wine. If you get strong vinegar or nail polish instead of intoxicating deep flavors this is a sign that bacteria is a at work causing a fault in the wine. Now not all bacteria is bad, some bacteria can actually enhance the wine’s overall flavor. However, too much will make the wine taste sour or soiled. Practicing to smell wine will help you know the good wine from the bad.
Smell and taste are two senses that go hand in hand. So if you detected something off when smelling or viewing the wine, most likely the taste will follow. There are a few signs that are easily noticeable when taking your first sip. Probably the most notable for me is if you detect astringent, vinegar or chemical like flavors. If the wine is flat and lacking fresh fruits then chances are it has gone bad, and this is generally because of the wine being “cooked” or overheated. If it is stored in a hot place, like a trunk of a car or near the stove they can begin to “cook.” Another sign for spotting a cooked wine is to observe the cork. If the cork doesn’t sit flush within the mouth of the bottle this is almost a sure tell sign that the wine has gone bad.
If you’re still unsure that the wine may be bad then ask the waiter to taste the wine or have the sommelier taste it. If it was store-bought then take the bottle back so that the store manager can replace it or give your money back. As much as I hate to admit it, not all wine is good wine. Of course, my wine is always good and will remain that way if consumed in a timely manner. Enjoy!