9 Easy Ways to Know if Your Wine Has Gone Bad & What to Do!

how to tell if your wine has gone bad
Simply by looking, smelling, or tasting your wines you can tell if your wine has gone bad. Let’s check out how!

Wondering how to tell if your wine has gone bad? Keep reading you’ll find your answers!

Let’s start by saying that about 1 in 75 bottles has a common wine fault. So it can happen, don’t worry. 

We have listed for you 9 easy ways to find out if your wine has gone bad so that you have a handy guideline and can train yourself as well.

We’ll see later as well what you can do about that.

Keep reading if you want to find out:

How to tell if your wine has gone bad by looking at it?

There are a series of visual indicators that will help you understand if your wine has likely gone bad. Let’s take a quick look at the most common cases

“Maderized” or Heat Damaged Wine

If the cork is pushed slightly up from the bottle, it could indicate that the bottle was exposed to heat and it might have damaged the wine.

One example would be the triggering of an unwanted second fermentation, which will damage the taste profile of the wine with oddly sour aromas.

Color

If the color has changed, brownish for reds or dark yellow/gold for whites, it could indicate that the wine has oxygenized, i.e. it has been overly exposed to oxygen. 

Let’s be clear though, here we are talking color changing for those wines that are not meant to age. Some wines are meant to age for a long time in this case the change in color is expected and wanted to some extent.

Cloudy

If your wine has become cloudy, and it was clear, to begin with, and has left a film in the bottle, it’s likely that it has gone bad. 

Some not filtered wines are meant to be cloudy, so in this case, don’t worry or if unsure, check with your vendor.

Bubbles

You will find bubbles, in a still wine, caused by the triggering of an unwanted second fermentation, that’s another hint that your wine has gone bad. 

The taste won’t be great, so I don’t recommend drinking it.

How to tell if your wine has gone bad by smelling it?

There are a series of odors you can smell that will help you understand if your wine has likely gone bad. Let’s take a quick look at the most common cases

Corked Wine

If it has a dominant smell of wet dog and wet newspaper for example, it’s another indicator that something has gone bad. These odors are caused by chemical contamination in your bottle.

Reductive Wine

If it has a dominant smell of rotten egg, cooked garlic, cooked cabbage, or fart, yep that as well, it’s most likely from the sulfur compounds. 

You might still be lucky though, as sometimes just decanting the wine for roughly 15 mins will solve the problem. Sulfur is a stabilizer in wine, and a small amount is added to almost all wines.

Volatile Acidity

If it has a dominant smell of vinegar or sauerkraut, it’s from the acetic acid and yet again is another hint to the fact that your wine has gone bad. 

These unpleasant odors are chemical reactions caused by the exposure of the wine to either oxygen or heat. This exposure facilitates the growth of bacteria that produce acetic acid.[1]

Brett

If it smells like a farm, horsey, or farmyard it might indicate your wine has gone bad. This phenomenon is caused by Brettanomyces yeast (aka Brett). 

Why am I saying might? Well for some oaked wines like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon this yeast is added to add complexity to the wine. So in this case it’s all perfectly fine. 

If you smell it though on Pinot Noir or white wines there’s something wrong, as this aroma is most likely not planned for this type of wine.

How to tell if your wine has gone bad by tasting it?

Let’s start by saying that drinking a wine that has gone bad is not a pleasant experience but it will not harm you.

Common flavors that indicate that your wine has gone bad are astringent, paint-thinner, vinegar, and caramelized applesauce-ish flavors, somehow similar to Sherry but in a bad way.

What can you do when your wine has gone bad?

In many cases, there are no easy ways to fix this, but there are things you can still do here

  • If you have kept your receipt you can return it and get your money back.

  • If you have an important event or dinner, it’s always best to be prepared with at least another bottle. That’s why I always buy at least 3 bottles of the same wine. You can use one to experiment with aging and one as a backup in case the bottle you opened has gone bad.

  • Use this unfortunate experience as a training session to improve and enhance your tasting skills for the next time.

In conclusion

How to tell if your wine has gone bad? By now, you should be able to properly answer.

We have listed for you 9 easy ways to find out if your wine has gone bad so that you have a handy guideline and can train yourself as well.

Always keep the receipt, so that you can get your money back. 

For your favorite wines, if possible, buy more than one bottle of the same wine, so that you have a backup in case you need it for an important event or moment.

Are you after some recommendations for the best wines you can find right now? Check out our buying guides on wines.

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