Open enough wine bottles and you will encounter things you aren’t sure about. What do you do?
Things you don’t have to worry about and are not flaws:
• White crystals on cork or in wine. These are natural deposits called tartrates; they do not affect taste or wine quality. Drink away.
• Sediment in older red wine. Natural, even good thing. Decant or carefully pour.
• Burnt matches smell. Caused by sulfur dioxide added when wine is bottled to keep it fresh. When too much is used, you may notice. It will blow away minutes after opening and not affect wine.
• Cork flecks. Usually caused by dry cork that broke apart while opening. Fish/strain it out; cork has been in contact with wine since bottling; it will not affect anything.
Things you should worry about:
• Smell of wet cardboard. Sign of bad cork that at some time had mold growing in it. Will not hurt you to drink, but negatively impacts pleasure. In restaurant, grounds for sending bottle back if sommelier is not skillful enough to catch the flaw.
• Vinegar. Caused by oxidation; usually occurs when restaurant pours from bottles open too long. Again, even barefoot Pilgrim sommelier should catch this. Reject the wine.
• Cork pushed up or leaking. Wine has gotten hot or, conversely, been frozen. Not necessarily terrible, but be warned storage was not correct. In wine store, don’t buy.
• Brown color. Exposure to air or too much light. Older reds have slight brownish tint and may not mean trouble; young reds should not have brownish tint. White wines with brownish tint are past drinking date. Reject at restaurant, don’t buy at store.
• Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014: KC defines affordable Marlborough sauv blanc. Checks off every box in profile for color, aroma, taste, length. Superb value-price. $15-18
• Alamos Selección Malbec 2012: Elegant, creamy black fruit, baked plum, cherry, spice finish, tinge of redcurrant tang. $20
• Pedernales Cellars Texas GSM 2013: Unusual GSM: 50% mourvedre, 32% syrah, 18% grenache (Rhône GSM would be reversed). As usual with better Texas wines, upper end of value-for-price, but you will enjoy. $26
Last round: A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world.—Louis Pasteur
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