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When Wine Goes Bad

If you drink wine somewhat regularly, you are bound to come across bottles that you don’t like. Often and unfortunately, this is just bad luck, and you probably picked a wine that didn’t suit your taste. Other times but less more often, your dislike for a wine could be because you got a flawed bottle. Wine is made with fruit and in a sense, it is a living consumable. Things can go wrong. This post is my attempt to help you differentiate between a legitimately flawed wine and one you just don’t like.

What Is a Flawed Wine?

Most wine professionals agree that a number of conditions can lead to flawed wine. The one most commonly referred to is when a wine is infected with TCA or cork taint. This is a specific type of mold found in the tree bark that is used to make cork closures for wine. If you’ve ever poured yourself a glass of wine and found it to smell like wet newspaper, moldy basement, or wet dog, you’ve gotten a “corked” bottle of wine. This affects a small percentage of wines, and it’s not going to provide for pleasurable drinking. Table Wine accepts returns for exchange for wines of this sort and so should other retailers.

There are certainly other cases where wine can go bad. If your wine smells or tastes of burnt match (excessive sulfur), vinegar (volatile acidity), barnyard (Brettanomyces), or rancid butter (diacetyl), you could have a wine with detectible faults. BUT, some wine lovers find some of these traits desirable, especially if they don’t totally overwhelm the other sensory components of the wine. However, if any of these factors are disproportionate or extreme, you’ve probably got a bad bottle. Contact your retailer to arrange for an exchange.

I’m not done yet. There are a few other occurrences that can make your wine taste bad. A faulty cork that doesn’t seal a wine properly can lead to vinegary or oxidized, aromas and flavors. Equally unpleasant are wines that undergo unintentional secondary fermentations. This can occur when unwanted bacteria makes it into the bottle or when excess residual sugar is present in a finished wine. The result is a fizzy wine that is not supposed to be fizzy.

Heat Damaged Wine

High heat is a wine’s worst enemy. When wine is exposed to temperatures over 70 degrees for a sustained amount of time (more than 3-6 months), things can start to go wrong. Even worse, when wine gets stored or shipped at 80 degrees or higher, it can quickly become “cooked.” That’s the reason we keep Table Wine nice and cool all year long! A “cooked” bottle of wine is often easy to spot. If you go to open a bottle and notice the cork protruding, it’s highly likely your wine is heat damaged. Heat damaged wines taste of stewed or overly-jammy fruit, kind of like canned prunes. Yuck!

Being that I keep Table Wine nice and cool at all times, I can assure you we do not peddle in heat damaged wines. If you’ve ever pulled up to the store and seen the curtains pulled, it’s not because we are anti-social. It’s because those curtains were specially designed with a heat resistant fabric to keep light and heat away from our wines. Make sure to store your wine in a cool environment. Take care of your wine like you would take care of fresh produce or eggs.


At the end of the day, I want customers to enjoy the wines they purchase. Being that we have a strict but not forbidden return policy, it is key to educate yourself on how wines can go bad, what to look for, and how you can prevent it from happening. If you suspect you’ve gotten a flawed bottle, contact us, and we’ll arrange a time where we can assess the bottle and come to a conclusion and resolution. Let’s hope these occurrences are minimal. Until we meet again, cheers to happy drinking and eating in Asheville.

Josh Spurling
Owner/Operator at Table Wine


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