Chapter 8 - Wine Faults 👻🍷
Chapter 8 - Wine Faults 👻🍷

You know... that funny smell that you can't quite put your finger on, and the wine just doesn't taste quite right? Learn the eight most common wine faults!

Today we're going to guide you through the eight most common wine faults. You know, when there's a funny smell that you can't quite put your finger on, and the wine just doesn't taste how it should. But what could be wrong?

By the end of this last chapter, you'll know what causes each of the most common wine faults, if there are any ways to "fix" them, as well as how to detect them yourself!

Hope you enjoy the final chapter!

Your wine coaches,

Banjo & Alex

It's a sad day when it happens, but it does happen. You open your bottle of wine and something just isn't quite right. Wine is a complex and sensitive thing, and there are many things that can set a wine "off". However, the good news is that some winemakers and drinkers actually enjoy some of these “flawed” aromas in small doses. It is said that it can add complexity, authenticity and character to the wines. At the end of the day, none of them are actually bad for your health, and some you may find enjoyable! It all comes down to personal preference!

Also referred to as TCA or Trichloroanisol

Corked wines are probably the most familiar wine flaw, but also gets blamed when it was actually innocent! It is certainly possible for the wine to be affected by cork taint *without* having a cork in the bottle (it would've occurred in the winemaking process), but 99% of the time, the wine needs to have a cork to be corked.

The scientific term is 2,4,6 trichloroanisole, which for obvious reasons is shortened to TCA in the wine community. Essentially it is airborne bacteria combined with chlorophenols that may originate in pesticides or preservatives used on cork wood trees.

Detected by:

If you pull the cork out and the wine is smelling like damp cardboard, wet hessian, a dog that had a bath and didn't get dried properly, or maybe just musty, cork taint could be the issue.

Also known as cooked or Madeirised.

The second most common problem for wine is that has it sees too much oxygen and has spoiled or gone bad.

Wine is a sensitive soul and like a little bit of air but not too much. Prolonged exposure to oxygen will dull a wine, change the flavours and make it unpleasant. You know when you cut a fresh apple and leave it for a little while, it turns brown? That's oxidation.

Detected by:

Wine affected in this way will smell porty, sweet, caramelly, and may have changed colour. Whites will turn brown/yellow, and reds will turn tawny/brown.

Also known as VA or Ethyl Acetate.

Some wines will be fine to drink, but will have an acetic edge to them, both on the nose and palate. In extreme cases, this will render the wine undrinkable, but at lower levels, it may actually add complexity to the wine. Like we said before, it's all personal preference!

Detected By:

Wines with volatile acidity often smell like nail polish remover, permanent marker. It's a sharp smell that may be slightly vinegary, and the palate salty/sweet.

Also known as Brett or Dekkera.

Brettanomyces ("Bret-tan-o-my-sees") is a yeast that naturally occurs on the surface of fruit and grains. As with volatile acidity, some winemakers and drinkers actually enjoy the character of this "fault" in small doses. It is said that it can add a savoury tone and more complexity to the wines. It will however grow in the wine over time, eventually affecting the flavour of the wine and making it undrinkable.

Detected By:

In large quantities, Brett can produce distinct aromas of a smelly farmyard, damp band-aid, sweaty horse saddle and the like. Sometimes it veers towards a smoky character as well.

Also known as Trapped CO2

Ever had a still wine that was a bit fizzy? It could've been on the way to being off, or it just might've needed a little help.

If the fizziness was accompanied by any strange tasting flavours, the wine may have started refermenting. This means that there might've been some yeast and sugar still in the wine and it warmed up enough to kick off fermentation. This will generally result in strange tasting wine.

Sometimes however there is CO2 (a byproduct of fermentation) trapped in the wine, and this gives a slight spritz to the wine. This is common in youthful fresh wines like Vinho Verde of Portugal! It doesn't need fixing, as it can be a stylistic choice by the producer. But if it's not something you enjoy, an easy way to remove the effervescence is to decant it or give it a big swirl in your glass.

Detected By:

A wine that is meant to be still but has a slight spritz or fizziness accompanied by unusual flavours.

All of these wine faults can occur in different doses. Sometimes they are so slightly flawed that it’s hardly even noticeable when tasting, or it even adds complexity! Other times that can be downright undrinkable. Where it sits on the spectrum is all comes down to your own tastes!

Key Reading

1. Wine Faults: A general overview.
2. Where Wine Flavours Come From: A general overview

Bonus Reading
3. Learn more about oxidative vs reductive winemaking.


Ready to prove your new knowledge on wine faults? Take the Chapter 8 Wine Faults Quiz! You'll earn your Chapter 8 Badge as well as 50 points by scoring 7/9 correct!


The best kind of assignment... celebrating! You did it! And we think you should give yourself a pat on the back and perhaps pop some bubbly.

We hope you're able to use some of your new knowledge and skills while picking, opening and tasting your special celebratory bottle. You deserve it!

That was sure fun. From tasting the wines of the world to reading wine labels to how wine is made, you've now got a great understanding of it all!

We are so happy to be part of your wine journey and can't wait for it to continue. If you liked this course, please share it with a friend! And keep your eyes peeled for the next advanced courses to come!

Happy Wine Adventures!

Alex & Banjo

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