Aromas that signal something’s wrong with your wine
Wine can be spoiled in the winery, after bottling, during shipping or storage at a retail shop, restaurant or even in your home. Some wine faults are more common than others, there’s a good chance a regular wine drinker will experience at least one or more of the faults.
Does your wine smell like a wet dog, damp newspaper or cardboard or a musty basement? Then the wine is probably “corked.” Cork taint may be the flaw most likely to cause the most sleepless nights for winemakers and collectors. Estimates vary, but up to a staggering 8% of bottles may be “corked.” Cork taint derives from the compound trichloroanisole (or TCA), a sign of mold in faulty corks
Smelling walnuts, caramel, stewed fruit or even curry spice? The wine is probably oxidized. But should a wine, red or white, become prematurely oxidized (oftentimes due to a dried out cork), it’s no longer good. If you’re served a prematurely oxidized wine at a restaurant, that’s grounds to send it back. To avoid the issue at home, always store a bottle on its side.
When volatile acidity levels in a wine are excessively high they spoil the aromas and flavors. Volatile acidity destroys the wine’s fruitiness and finally makes the wine taste like vinegar.
Smelling rotten eggs, burned rubber, matches or cauliflower in your wine? That wine is reduced. Reduction is the opposite of oxidation, meaning the wine has not been exposed to any air. Too much air can oxidize wine, but a little bit of oxygen helps wine age. Reductive aromas may also be present in wines aged under screw cap tops.
Are you getting the aroma of bandages, rubber, horses or other barnyard smells? This is brettanomyces — or brett is a type of yeast that likes to hang out in wineries, especially in barrels. Brett can be tricky to identify, as certain strains of the yeast can impart earthy or meaty aromas that some people find appealing in small amounts. However, if your wine smells primarily of barnyards, rotten meat, or adhesive bandages, you should consider sending the wine back.
Sulfur has a complicated relationship with wine. One particular type, sulfur dioxide, is added to almost all wines as a stabilizer and natural preservative to keep bacteria away. But sometimes your wine gets a wandering eye and becomes attached to other types of sulfur, such as dihydrogen sulfide, which can lead to rotten egg, flatulence, burnt rubber, or skunk, aromas no one wants associated with their wine.
This could be because the wine is too cold, or it needs a little air. Warm the glass with your hands and swirl a little to introduce more air. If it still isn’t smelling like much after a few minutes, it could be that the wine just doesn’t have much flavour.