Tainted Wine

Definition - What does Tainted Wine mean?

Tainted wine is often associated with a wine that is corked. However, a wine can be faulty for many other reasons when a wine is oxidized in a manner that is not favorable to good aging. Any form of "taint" in a wine can be caused by many reasons:

  1. Improper storage of wine
  2. Presence of certain compounds which contribute to tainted wine, like acetic acid
  3. Poor hygiene during harvest and the winemaking process
  4. Poor sanitation practices in the winery
  5. Use of any chlorine-based products in the sanitation of winery equipment

Two common terms used for tainted wine are "Cork Taint" and Vinegar Taint". Cork Taint is usually associated with TCA or tricholroanisole, this type of taint is harmless, however, it does give a wine an off-putting aroma, usually associated with a musty, humid basement smell. It is often caused by chlorine-based cleaners in the winery. "Corked" wine, however, can also occur when a wine is oxidized at a fast rate due to a faulty cork, excess dissolved oxygen present in the wine at bottling or poor wine storage.

Vinegar Taint, on the other hand, is caused by the presence of acetic acid during the wine making process as a result of poor sanitation practices; this can cause the wine to turn to vinegar.

WineFrog explains Tainted Wine

Other common factors which cause tainted wine include Brett, volatle acid, oxidation an reduction:

Brett or Brettanomyces - Caused by a yeast often found in wineries. It comes in contact with the phenols of red wine and often smells like "band-aids" or barnyard. Sometimes it is faint, and depending on where the wine is from, it may be a desirable trait.

Volatile Acid (VA) - The wine will smell like vinegar due to presence acetic acid bacteria which likes the alcohol in wine and ferments it into vinegar. It can be perceived or not depending on the sensitivity of one's nose. In small amounts, it is not a big deal, but if it is untamed, the wine is not very quaff-able and be more like vinegar than wine.

Oxidation - Occurs when a wine might not have been stored properly and excess oxygen in large amounts affected the wine before its maturation. The wine is often browned and lacks fresh notes on the nose.

Reduction - This is the opposite of the former term. This typically takes place during winemaking when the wine has not been exposed sufficiently to oxygen. Too much is bad, but too little is not favorable. A reduced wine will smell something like sulfur or rotten eggs. Sometimes it can be corrected with a good decanter for a significant amount of time.

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