Life’s too short to drink bad wine!

What exactly is a “bad” wine? There are many factors that become enemies of wine that can contribute to “off” flavors or “corked” or “tainted” wine. What are they and how do you discern what is good, bad, or just plain not your style?

Let’s begin with the enemies. Heat and light; two things we have plenty of here in Florida. That’s why we have blinds along the wall with windows at the front of the store here at Ed’s. As much as I love a good nap lying in a sun spot on the floor (most dogs do!) this can ruin a bottle of wine quickly. You may notice many wines are bottled in green or brown tinted glass. This, too, helps protect the wine in its journey to your cellar, fridge, and eventually your glass. Since we don’t have too many actual cellars here in our Florida homes, a good wine refrigerator is a great investment to keep your valued wines dark and cool. Another one of my favorite spots to hang out is the cellar temperature controlled wine room we have here in the store- especially when it’s so hot and humid out there. My Dad, Ed, keeps our special wines in that room, some of the later vintages that will only gain in value as they age, stored properly; wines from smaller producers, and some of our very best Champagnes and top rated wines from around the world.

Keeping your wine selections in a wine refrigerator will certainly help them last longer, but if you don’t have the time, space, or budget for even a small wine fridge, finding space in your regular fridge will be a great place to house the wines you are prepared to rotate- from shelf to fridge to consumption. Many times if we have wines left over from tastings, they get a cork put back in and go on the top shelf for the night, and most will be just as good the next day. Cold temperatures will slow down oxidation and help keep open wines from spoiling quickly.

This leads to the next enemy of wine, oxygen. We love oxygen, we need oxygen to breathe, and sometimes we pour some older or even some very fresh red wines into a decanter. Decanting adds oxygen immediately “opening up” a wine that has been stored for years, or younger wines that need to “breathe”. How can you tell when too much air has made your wine taste or smell bad? Oxidation occurs naturally as the wine is being made. The juice is often fermented in open top stainless steel tanks where winemakers will go in and stir the wine regularly during the initial process after picking and sorting. This is done most often with red wines, as the contact with the skins is helping the wine get darker in color. This stirring is referred to as Batonage. Once the winemaker is ready to filter and then bottle, the wine can still be exposed to oxygen. This natural process of aging, usually in the bottle resting on its side, allows for a small amount of oxygen to get into the wine through the cork over a period of time. This is again, a naturally occurring part of oxidation in the normal evolution of a wine. Since wine is a living, breathing thing, if a cork is inferior, it could cause the wine to “turn”. So rapid oxidation- literally the chemical process of too much air causing the grapes, sugar and alcohol to turn into acedic acid, can make the juice taste like vinegar. Often the wine becomes a bit brown in color and will emote a funky odor, and taste worse than stinky socks! (One of my favorite things to chew on when I was a puppy!)

Another sign of a “bad” wine is if the cork begins to push out from the bottle on its own. This can happen in transport if the wines are not being shipped in refrigerated trucks (all of our suppliers use temperature controlled methods of transport) or if a wine is kept a little too long in the back of your car on the ride home from the store.

Remember, a small cooler in your car, or make sure you stop in to see us and make your wine selections right before heading home to keep them in great shape to taste wonderful! Some older wines will exhibit less fruit and more earthy notes; however, a good wine should smell of typical fruit flavors for the varietal you have chosen, have a fresh, clear color- light yellow or straw for whites, and ruby red or purple for reds.

Come on by and let us help you choose the right selection for your family get togethers, hostess gifts, dinner, or just sippin’ while you relax or prepare a meal or read a good book, or watch a show. If you’ve any doubt your wine is bad, open another bottle and make sure you enjoy it, because life is too short to drink bad wine!

Wine is a living liquid containing no preservatives. Its life cycle comprises youth, maturity, old age, and death. When not treated with reasonable respect it will sicken and die” – Julia Child




 By Brunello Giancola as told to CRBrown