Wine may be an acquired taste, but in some cases red wine actually tastes bad because it has been spoiled. Wine that is poorly bottled or has not been properly stored can develop an unpleasant flavor. Spoiled wine not only occurs when you leave it out after dinner; it can occur when being stored unopened in a restaurant or anywhere else.
Signs that Wine is Spoiled
Wine has a distinct taste with subtleties that are different for each type of wine. Those who are not exactly sommeliers may need a little help in determining whether a wine is spoiled or just not to their liking. If you suspect a bottle of wine may be spoiled, look for the following signs:
- A noticeably brown color
- Acidic/vinegar-like taste
- Aromas of sulfur, must or mildew (or any off-putting smell)
- Moldy taste
- Warped cork, or cork that shows signs of an incomplete seal (you will see wine stains along the sides).
If you notice any of these things, the wine is most likely spoiled. In a restaurant setting, a bottle of wine with any of these characteristics is considered tainted wine and should be sent back.
Preventing Spoilage: Wine Storage Solutions
The culprit for many a spoiled wine is improper storage. Heat and inadequate re-corking or sealing can easily ruin a wine, but these things can be avoided.
Since heat can spoil wine rather quickly, your wine should be stored in a dark, cool place between 41 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (5 and 15 degrees Celsius). An ideal place would be a cellar or in a pantry.
If the wine is made with a natural cork, the bottle needs to be stored on its side to keep the cork moist and tight. If the cork does not stay moist, it will dry out and shrivel up, which lets air into the bottle. Oxidation is one of the main causes of spoiled wine. As a result, it is not recommended that leftover wine from an opened bottle be saved for another day; more so for old wines (especially old red wine) than young wines.
A wine rack is a good place to store bottles on their side. However, if the wine has a synthetic cork or a screw top, it does not need to be stored on its side.
Methods for Saving Wine
If you do wish to save leftover wine, there are a few methods you can try:
- Refrigeration: putting the wine in the refrigerator can slow the growth of bacteria.
- Decanting: pour the leftover wine into a smaller bottle, preferably a wine half-bottle. This will minimize the amount of oxygen with which the wine is in contact. Although this method makes sense in theory, some experts say it is ineffective.
- Vacuuming: this method requires the use of a vacuum device that will suck the oxygen out of the bottle. A vacuum device can be as simple as a rubber bung and a pump. This method, however, seems to render the wine dull and lifeless in flavor.
One similar device on the market actually replaces the oxygen with Argon, a neutral gas.
Keep in mind that these preventative measures only delay the inevitable deterioration of the wine. Oxidation will occur even if you re-cork or decanter, so it is not recommended to save opened wine for more than one additional day.
Unfortunately, once a wine is spoiled there is no way to reverse the process or improve the taste. So the next time you find a bottle of wine you”d like to try, but don”t think you can finish it in one day, why not invite a few friends over for a dinner party and truly enjoy it?