How to Tell If You’re About To Drink Bad Wine

Contrary to what some people think, the ultimate goal that a wine strives towards is to taste good. Whatever the variety, whatever the price point, the hope of all winemakers is that someone, somewhere, enjoys their creation. However, sometimes the process doesn’t go as planned, and you’re left with a bottle that just sucks. Thankfully, there are some ways to tell if you’re about to drink bad wine.


The taste of a wine is the ultimate indicator that it has gone bad. Even if you’re drinking a cheap wine, there’s a few unpleasant tastes that can tell you that your wine has gone from ‘bottom shelf’ to ‘down the sink.’ The taste of vinegar is a well known indicator that you’re drinking a bad wine, but chemical flavors, excessive sulfur, and flatness can also tell you that something is off with your wine, usually that too much oxygen has made its way inside and over-oxidized the liquid. You can also tell if your wine has been contaminated by the cork if it has a musty, cardboardy quality that overpowers the other flavors. But what if you want to tell if you have a bad wine before you drink it?


‘Corkiness’ or cork contamination can also show up before you’ve even opened the bottle. When a defective cork has turned a wine bad, often you’ll be able to see wine stains traveling up the cork before you’ve even removed it. Corkiness, as well as other potential flaws, can also manifest itself in the form of sediment, which can indicate that the cork has degraded into the wine or that something during the brewing process has led the wine to be improperly filtered. Of course, if you’re drinking a natural wine, then that sediment is likely meant to be there, but most other types of wine are meant to be clear.

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