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How to Tell If Wine Went Bad and How Coravin Can Help

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Have you ever poured a glass of wine and felt unsure? The look, the smell, the taste – something just seemed… off? This happens sometimes when a bottle isn’t stored properly, is exposed to too much heat or light, or has a damaged cork.

In general, all wines should be stored in a cool, dark place on their side. Same goes for wines accessed with Coravin. To make sure all of your Coravin bottles stand the test, store them properly before they are accessed. After accessing, continue to store bottles properly and follow the preservation length recommendations below:

Wines – especially chilled wines – accessed with Coravin Timeless wine by the glass systems like Timeless Three, Six, and Eleven, need a little extra time before you store them. Keep bottles upright for a minute or more to allow the cork to reseal.

When it comes to cork, the quality varies depending on when and where it was harvested as well as manufacturing techniques. Also, over time, corks can become brittle, dry, and fragile, especially when a bottle is not stored properly.

How to tell if wine went bad

Since you can’t always control how a wine bottle is stored before it makes its way into your hands and because you can’t always control the quality of the cork, it’s possible that your wine could go bad before it hits your glass. Since you likely don’t have a wine sniffing dog, you’ll need to learn how to detect wine faults yourself.

To spot some of the most common tell-tale signs of a spoiled wine, start by activating your three “wine tasting senses” – sight, smell, taste.

1. Sight: Look for wine faults

Observe your wine. The very first way to tell if wine went bad doesn't involve the beverage itself, but the cork. If you notice that the cork is slightly pushed out from the bottle, this means that the wine has overheated. Also, if a cork is crumbling or seems to be falling apart, there’s a chance the wine could be bad as well.

If the cork is intact, focus on the color of the wine. You can easily tell when a wine has lost its shine, crispness, or color. If your wine looks faded and discolored, then you are most likely about to drink an oxidized wine. Whites and reds both take on a brownish hue when they are exposed to air. However, keep in mind that an aged wine will naturally have a slight brownish tint to it; young wines, on the other hand, fade in color only when in contact with air.

2. Smell: Sniff out bad scents

If your wine doesn’t smell good, it’s probably bad. If you open a wine expecting a toasted bread or fruity-forward aroma but instead smell moldy basement or wet cardboard, it’s best not to taste it. In this case, the wine is probably corked. TCA, the chemical responsible for that phenomenon, gives the wine that less-than-favorable smell. It won’t hurt you to drink corked wine, but know that it certainly won’t get better as it opens up.

3. Taste: Bad taste follows bad smell

Smell and taste go hand in hand, so if you detect an odd smell when you pour your wine, chances are that the taste will be off too. Here are some things to taste for: sweetness (when it’s not meant to be sweet), vinegar taste, or sour flavor. These faults occur when wine is left open, when the bottle is corked, or when the bottle is oxidized.

4. Texture: Look for bubbles

Last but not least, look for the unexpected presence of bubbles in your still wine. Sparkling wines get their bubbles from a second fermentation phase (learn more about that in Coravin’s Book of Bubbly), but wines that are intended to be still, not sparkling, might accidentally get carbonation during the bottling process.

In the end, trust your instinct. If a wine looks off and smells odd, it’s likely gone bad. Using your Coravin wine by the glass system to preserve bottles over time can help save a lot of wine from being poured down the drain. Have more tips? Share with us @coravin to help other know how to tell if wine went bad.