Wine 101: Finding Wine Faults, Part 2

Back in September, I’d posted a piece on wine faults. While this initially sounds boring or academic, the ability to discern if your wine is having, er, ‘issues’, simply takes guesswork out of the equation and allows you to make the all-important call to drink or ditch what’s in your glass.

With this post, I dive in further with a couple more possible problems that could arise in your bottle. My wish, of course, is that you don’t come across these issues. If you do, however, you’ll now be able to spot ‘em a mile away.

Sulfur Issues

Let’s call a spade a spade; they smell like farts. Sulfur is generally added to wine to ensure its stabilisation, so a ferment doesn’t spontaneously re-start and so on. If the sulfur is out of whack, the aroma of it can dominate the genuine, intended wine aromas. Scents of cooked eggs, fresh-struck matches and natural gas are other hints of its existence being over the top. There’s usually a quick fix though. A decant of the wine, or swirling the wine in your glass like crazy for a minute or so should release those off-putting aromas and all will be just fine!

Volatile Acidity

Yup, it smells like table vinegar or nail polish remover and is the result of a little too much acetic acid in the mix. Usually caused as an inadvertent by-product of fermentation and the result of yeast or bacterial issues, it can sometimes (in small doses) be a good thing in wine that elevates the good aromas. If it’s too intense and off-putting, you can usually return the bottle hassle-free.


Pretty much impossible with wines under screw-cap, but if your wine’s under cork and that cork has inadvertently allowed oxygen into the bottle, your wine has become oxidised. When oxygen hits wine in a bottle before opening, it’s the same effect as if you cracked open a bottle and left it open on your counter for days, weeks, or months. Evidenced by whites that are darker than they should be, and reds that are, well, brown.  The wine will also taste flat or outright spoiled. Again, if it comes to you this way, it’s totally returnable.


Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. He’s not half as fancy/boring as that sounds. He Tweets and Instagrams @KurtisKolt.

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