As an oenophile, one of the first things you should have is a good wine-dar. That is like a radar for detecting good or bad wine.
People are under this notion that wine doesn’t go bad, and it is true. Provided, it is good quality. Well-brewed wines can stay in a bottle for over 100 years and taste great when you open it. This is true of red, white and sparkling wine. However, once it is opened, wine can go bad fairly quickly- say, in a week.
Knowing your wine
Unfortunately, unless you are great with wine brands and authentic labels, it is not always possible tell the quality by just looking at the bottle. As any real connoisseur will say, the truth is in the taste. Having said that, there are 3 major ways to tell the quality of your wine, and they are;
The colour of the wine
You can deduce a lot about a wine from its colour. Light-bodied white wines like pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc should have a clear appearance with a very pale, light yellow. This indicates the wine’s freshness; it is vibrant and thus, ready to drink.
Chardonnay, and similar white wines with oak treatment, may be a bit darker in colour than other varieties. The same colour tests apply to reds as well. But they vary from deep opaque reds to translucent ruby red. So, if you see any brownish colours, it may have aged or oxidised.
The smell of the wine
Pour the wine in a glass, swirl it a bit, stick your nose above the glass lip and take a whiff. Does it smell like wine? If it has a fruity or floral scent, then it is of good quality. However, if it smells like your wet pet puppy, or a damp newspaper after a storm, then it is most likely corked, and therefore bad.
“Corked” wine is the result of a pesky compound found in the cork. Sometimes, airborne fungi react with the cork to form a substance known as CTA, which makes the wine smell bad. Don’t bother drinking it if this is the case, because it will taste as bad. Simply pour it down the sink.
The taste of the wine
An unappealing colour and bad smell are usually sufficient signs of a flawed wine. Flawed wine means something may be chemically wrong with the bottle too, so if the taste is equally bad, you should consult your sommelier or wine merchant immediately.
Wine should have a fruity, slightly woodsy taste. It shouldn’t be too sweet either unless stated otherwise. Also, the taste of good wine lasts longer on the palate; this is a fine finish. If it is not good at all, then tell the provider. If you are in a decent restaurant, 9 times out of 10, you will get a replacement.
In vino veritas! In wine there is truth. Nothing is as off-putting as sour wine. Us oenophiles must be able to detect when a wine is “off” and draw attention to it. Don’t worry if your wine-dar takes some time to develop. With practice, it will eventually come.