Let us not create panic! This is a very common situation! I have come across several situations with this theme and there are some ways to get around it without any constraints.
First, I find it interesting to understand why a wine can spoil. Wine is a living drink, in constant evolution, which is born, matures and dies. When bottled it is still a young drink and some can and should be drunk quickly and others still need to mature and evolve inside the bottle. This period of ripening must be carefully observed, because if the wine ripens too much in the bottle it dies, as in the case of any fruit. Distilled beverages such as cachaça, whiskey, vodka and gin are not live drinks like wine and therefore do not have an expiration date and do not spoil after opening! That is, one of the main reasons for a wine to spoil is time. He may have stayed longer than he should have been in a bottle! Another factor that can contribute to a wine “die” is the storage conditions. The bottles should always be stored in dark and cool places, never in places that are sunny because the heat contributes for the wine to evolve and ripen faster than it should.
PHOTO: Danielle Noce – Instagram: @nocedanielle
Another thing that sometimes makes wine spoil is the cork itself, which is known as “bouchonné”. They say that the wine is bouchonné when it has a stopper aroma and that is a defect.
I’ve gone through some curious situations (and others not so much) with spoiled wines. Some curious ones happened when I worked in a restaurant and was responsible for the local wine list. Ordering wine in restaurants was starting to become quite a fun fashion among young people, but very few knew what they were asking for.
Wine was the favorite drink for couples in love! Whenever I saw a couple arriving at the restaurant, I bet with the cooks what they were going to order. Men almost always asked for meat with some rustic accompaniment like baked potatoes, and the ladies asked for some pasta or, if it was their first date, a salad. Well, on the first date, the drink was always wine! Ah, you must wonder how the hell did we know when it was the first date of a couple! The restaurant staff is trained to always keep an eye on the customer and pay attention to their body language, always with great subtlety of course, to advance what the customer wants: more water, more drink, more bread to scrape the bottom of the plate, the menu again, more privacy, the bill soon… The couples on the first date have a very peculiar body language, they always seem very uncomfortable, with nervous giggles, small talk (I loved to prick the conversation, muá-ha-ha!), these things, but one of them was the main and my biggest fear: the desire to impress the other.
Yes, there was always a cute heartthrob who wanted to impress the girl, trying to win her over by showing how smart he was. The handsome man asked for the wine list, chose a bottle and asked the waiter to open it. The waiter did all that wine service theater, the big boy did his theater of spinning the glass three hundred times, until he sneezed a little on the table cloth, he was gagging the wine in his mouth as if it were “mouthwash”, he swallowed the wine, scowled and finally said “This wine is spoiled”. When this happened, I would taste the wine and ask two more people to taste it to confirm if the wine was in fact spoiled or not. And almost always the wine was not spoiled. The handsome guy just wanted to make fun of his girlfriend, to show that he understood something in life.
That for restaurants is a tight skirt. First because it is not fair for the company to lose a bottle of wine, which costs money, to please the vanity of customers. But nobody obviously wants to embarrass any customer inside the restaurant because of a bottle. And of course, other times, the customer is right. But please, don’t be rude to the restaurant staff (just because you’re paying). So, if it ever happens to you, stay calm and call the waiter to clear up the doubt. I can tell you that if you yell at the waiter, he won’t want to pay any attention to you, but if you talk nicely and ask the restaurant to kindly analyze the wine, I’m sure that, even if the wine isn’t damaged, they will exchange the bottle for you. Often it happened that certain customers were not used to certain types of wine, more acid, more astringent, more evolved, and mistakenly shouted, for the whole restaurant to hear, that they were serving a spoiled wine in the establishment. Often, just decant the wine, let it breathe, it will change a lot and that initial unpleasant feeling will pass away! In short, ask a couple of locals to taste the wine with you, to decant, let the wine breathe, to serve at the right temperature and, if there is no way, ask to change it!
As a customer, I also had the displeasure of asking for a wine that was not very nice. Once at a restaurant I ordered a “wine by the glass” and the wine was already quite oxidized. This happens a lot because the wines by the glass come from bottles that may have been opened for days. If it is a wine often ordered in the restaurant, no problem, because a bottle of wine opened up to about 3 days, kept with a vacuum stopper and refrigerated is still adequate. The wine in this case spoils because, when the liquid comes into contact with the air, it oxidizes and dies. Again, when in doubt, call the house waiter or sommelier and ask to taste it.
Other complicated cases I saw when working at a wine importer. If you buy any spoiled wine, you can and should contact the importer and request an exchange. However, there are some precautions. Changing a wine is not the same as changing a piece of clothing or any food on the market. Again, it is a subjective subject. Therefore, I advise the following:
When you open a bottle purchased from an importer or store and are unsure whether it is damaged or not, cover it with the stopper and contact the importer immediately (if not possible at the same time, call no later than the day Following). Let them know what happened and ask them to analyze the bottle to confirm. I say the next day or as soon as possible because, I’ve had cases of customers buying bottles and 3 years later they want to exchange the product. Delicate subject… It is difficult for the importer to take responsibility for a product after it left the establishment. How to confirm that it was stored correctly? Anyway, importers always have specialists who can confirm whether the wine is in fact oxidized or not. This is very important as there may be a problem with the batch of wine you purchased and this will allow the importer to contact the producer and warn you of the problem. Usually, they change their bottle without any problems. There’s no point in taking an empty bottle (as it often did) and demanding an exchange, right ?!
Finally, always stay calm! This kind of thing can happen, but with a little education, everything can be solved!
Good weekend, with lots of wine, everyone!