4 Wine Issues That May Actually Be Excellent.
When tasting wine, it is useful to know how to distinguish between wines that are excellent and wines that are faulty. This may be a challenging endeavor given that we (hopefully) do not often come across instances of the many faults that can be found in wine. After all, everyone’s natural perception threshold is somewhat different from one another.
There are seven basic defects that may be found in wine. But, and here is where things get interesting, winemakers may often employ some of these defects to the wine’s favor or to produce distinct tastes in the wine. Today, we are going to discuss five of those very flaws.
Of course, there are instances in which a defect is in fact a defect; hence, we will also instruct you on how to differentiate between the two.
the process through which red wine matures and oxidizes.
The oxidation process is responsible for the browning of wine (as well as sliced apples!). Additionally, it is capable of imparting savory umami notes to the wine.
Oxidation is a process that occurs when exposed to oxygen. During the process of creating wine, a modest quantity of air is allowed to contact the wine. This interaction is sometimes done on purpose by the winemaker.
In most cases, this may be avoided by adding more wine to the barrels at the same time as part of the wine is lost to evaporation. In most cases, this stage is skipped during the oxidative production of wine.
What the Taste of Oxidation Is Like in Wine
The oxidation process creates a rise in glutamate, an acid that is linked to monosodium glutamate (MSG), which gives oxidative wines their signature umami flavor.
These complex and alluring wines exude scents that are savory, yeasty, nutty, and earthy all at once. In most cases, one may additionally detect the flavor of dried fruit.
Putting Oxidation to Work for Your Benefit
This method is used to make a significant portion of the white wines produced in the Jura area of France, which are known as wines produced sous voile.
This includes the region’s most famous wine, Vin Jaune, which is known for being both nuanced and tasty. This is also used for Sherrys made in the Oloroso style, as well as Tawny Port, Madeira, Rancio Sec, and certain older white Riojas.
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The production of many orange wines involves exposing the grape skins to air during the open-top fermentation stage.
When Oxidation Can Be Considered a Flaw in Wine
When the wine is allowed to be exposed to oxygen throughout the fermenting or maturing process due to carelessness or poor sanitation during winemaking. Inadequate storage may also cause the seal on a cork to fail, which is another concern.
You should be wary of red and white wines that you drink on a regular basis or younger vintages if the wines’ smells have become muted, dried up, or cooked, and the color has a brownish tint.
Technically, wines should be kept at temperatures much below 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), although some do intentionally boil wines in order to impart interesting nutty and caramel aromas.
Heating the wine in tanks that are kept at a certain temperature is part of the Estufagem method, which is used to produce affordable wines in Madeira. The Canteiro procedure involves allowing wine barrels to be placed beneath the rafters of a warm winery attic so that the sun may heat them. This results in higher-end wines.
Because of these processes, wine that has been heated without the maker’s knowledge is often referred to as “Madeirized” or simply as “cooked.”
How Does Cooked Wine Taste?
Heat is often utilized in conjunction with or as a replacement for oxidation, and it produces effects that are comparable.
Dried fruit, spices, roasted nuts, chocolate, fruitcake, and smoke are some of the odors that are often encountered. The estufagem wines often have a flavor that resembles charred caramel.
Utilizing the Heat as an Advantage
The first stop should definitely be in Madeira. Additionally, heat is employed in the production of Rancio Sec, a wine that is similar to Sherry and is manufactured on both the French and Catalan sides of the border, often from different varieties of the Garnacha vine.
These wines have the extra benefit of being nearly eternal once opened; this is due to the fact that they have already been “cooked.”
When the Flaw in the Wine Is Heat
When kept in a location that is too warm, wine runs the risk of being accidentally warmed. This may also happen when there are not enough temperature controls in place during shipment during hot weather.
This may give wines that would normally taste fresh and bright a flavor of roasted fruit that is either too sweet or overdone, depending on how the wine was made.
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Brettanomyces, sometimes known as “brett,” is a kind of wild yeast that is spontaneously introduced to wine when it is being aged in the cellar. Because they consider it to be an integral element of their “house style,” several wineries simply choose not to ban its growth.
This ambient yeast may be found almost everywhere, including on the equipment used to make wine, in the barrels, and even on the grapes themselves. Because of this, maintaining control may be rather challenging at times.
What Brettanomyces Tastes Like Brettanomyces has the ability to provide a flavor and aroma to wine that is reminiscent of, well, a barnyard. Or a sweaty saddle. Or worn-out socks, used bandages, damp dogs, or cured meat.
The word “funky” is often used to refer to wines that contain Brett, and depending on the context, this may either be seen as praise or as an insult.
Moderation is the most important aspect of “good” brett. Some individuals are unable to handle it in any concentration, while others believe even a tiny quantity of it adds depth and character to their lives.
Making Use of Brettanomyces as an Advantage
There are no hard and fast standards, however, some winemakers do allow a certain amount of brett to persist in their wines.
For instance, many wines from the Southern Rhône, certain Italian wines produced from Barbera and Sangiovese grapes, and wines created by a select group of traditional Napa and Bordeaux winemakers, particularly those made from older vintages.
Because they lack the protection of sulfur, many natural wines are similarly susceptible to brett contamination.
When Brettanomyces Is Considered to Be a Flaw in Wine
Brett is a sign of microbial spoiling, which may occasionally be caused by a lack of sanitation in the winery. Brett is the worst-case scenario. In certain red wines, brett may be a desirable quality, but in white wines and sparkling whites, it is almost always regarded to be a defect.
It is particularly troublesome when it predominates to such an extent that the wine has lost all of its other characteristics. Brett is a discussion that, at the end of the day, you can have with the people you care about the most.
Wines that have undergone lengthy fermentations often include trace amounts of volatile acidity, also known as VA. It often conjures up images of nail polish!
The term “volatile acidity,” or VA for short, refers to the amount of acid in wine that exists in the gaseous rather than liquid state. Because of this, VA may now be detected by its odor.
This may happen if the grapes are subjected to an excessive amount of oxygen during the winemaking process, which is made possible by a kind of bacterium known as acetobacter.
Acetic acid, more often known as vinegar, is the kind of acid that is most commonly found in wine.
How the flavor of volatile acidity may be described
It should not come as a surprise that wines containing VA might have a flavor like vinegar; yet, this similarity can occasionally be appreciated favorably. Imagine a high-quality balsamic vinegar or even kombucha.
When used in moderation, this may provide a nice acidity and fruitiness to the overall flavor. In addition to this, it provides more character and depth.
Making the Most of the Benefits of Volatile Acidity
It’s difficult to identify exactly where the VA could be hiding in a wine! However, if you read the description of the wine and it uses phrases like “lifted” or “high-toned,” that may be a hint.
Additionally, it is more prevalent in sweet wines, particularly when botrytis is present, as well as in wines produced from dried grapes.
So search for it in Port, Sauternes, or Amarone Della Valpolicella. Wines aged in older barrels or produced in oxidative settings are likewise more likely to contain VA than wines aged in younger barrels.
When a Wine’s Problem Is Its Own Volatile Acidity
When there is an excessive amount of VA present, the aroma of the wine may be reminiscent of paint thinner or nail polish remover. It is particularly noticeable when the wine in question lacks the tannin, body, or alcohol necessary to compete with the potency of the VA.
As a side note, certain sniffers have an exceptionally high sensitivity to VA in comparison to others! Therefore, once again, the severity of this defect is highly dependent on the observer’s point of view.
Pyrazines may be traced back to the vineyard where they were produced.
Pyrazines, also known as methoxypyrazines, are chemicals that provide vines with resistance to many insects and diseases. They provide the taste of bell peppers!
Pyrazine, also known as methoxypyrazine, is a chemical molecule that naturally exists in certain types of grapes and is responsible for the herbaceous odors and tastes they produce.
It is notably prevalent in Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Carménère, particularly when the grapes are underripe, and it may be acceptable when present in low concentrations.
Winemakers that want their wines to have a hint of pyrazine flavor tend to harvest these varietals on the earlier end of the spectrum.
What Pyrazine Tastes Like
Pyrazines tend to taste “green.” They cover the range from gooseberries to canned asparagus, from green bell peppers to freshly cut grass, and everything in between. Those who want their wine to have a hint of a herbal character may find that pyrazine adds just the right amount of that quality.
Utilizing Pyrazine as an Advantage
Pyrazine is a characteristic that is unique to Sauvignon Blanc produced in New Zealand, notably in the Marlborough area. It is perhaps most recognized for the unique grassy aspect that it imparts to these wines.
In addition to that, you may find it in certain Bordeaux and Napa Cabernets from older vintages, as well as several Cabernet Francs from the Loire Valley.
In general, wines produced in cooler climates are the ones more likely to include this varietal.
When Pyrazine Is Considered a Defect in Wine
When the flavors of bell pepper are so dominant in the wine that it gives the impression that it is out of balance. As is the case with Brettanomyces, this is very much a matter of personal choice!
Flaws in wine are subjective and depend on the person drinking it.
Armed with this information, you may start conducting experiments with wines that have “flaws” in order to get familiar with their qualities. Determine which scents and tastes, such as brett and pyrazine, appeal to you the most by exerting effort in this area!
You may also learn to recognize when these defects really present an issue and you need to return a bottle of wine.
We suggest that you read Flawless: Understanding Flaws in Wine by Jamie Goode, which is an easy and educational deep dive into the realm of wine faults. If you truly want to dig into the geeky side of things, then this is the book for you.
In addition, the Nez du Vin wine defects kit offers an interactive and multisensory experience by providing perfumed vials of the 12 most prevalent faults that may be identified in wine.
Are there any wine faults that you really like that we haven’t mentioned? Tell us the details!