Here’s 5 common wine faults and how to pick ’em

Just how well do you know your wine faults? Photo: iStock
We’ve looked before  at how to taste spirits, but today we’re looking at five wine faults and how to spot them. Did you ever nose a glass of wine, and something didn’t smell quite right? Were you unsure whether the wine was corked or not? Let’s take a look at some of the more common wine faults you’re likely to find.

TCA — cork taint
Here’s the big one. TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), or what is often referred to as cork taint, is what gives a wine the smell of musty or damp cardboard.

How does it come about? This TCA thing is most often found in corks, but it can infect a winery, and so it can affect wines not sealed with cork.

And just by the by, if you’re at home and the last bottle of wine you have in the house ends up with a little cork taint, there is a hack: decant the wine into a jug with some cling wrap in it it — people  have reported varying levels of success with this, as the cling wrap supposedly attracts the TCA molecules and stripes it from the wine.

Brett taint
Damn Brett, he can be a divisive taint. Colloquially known as Brett, Brettanomyces is a yeast strain that some wine people like, and some don’t. If you smell blue cheese, smoked meats, leather, vinyl, or “sweaty horse” aromas, chances are it has some Brett taint going on.


The cabernet franc wines from Chinon and some Bordeaux wines are known for a blue cheese character, something that is a hallmark of these wines and much sought after, and that comes by way off Brett taint. But many winemakers from the New World would consider the presence of Brettanomyces in their wines a fault.

And hey, it’s the same yeast strain that’s responsible for some of the Continent’s finest, most interesting beer styles, so it can’t be all that bad.

Have you ever seen a wine scribe write that a wine was reductive? This refers to a note of rotten egg, “blocked drains” — all that good stuff. It usually goes away when the wine is opened and given a bit of air, and low levels can actually add a pleasant character to the wine.

Generally crap
The winespeak for this is that it’s ‘out of condition’, and that means that the wine has lost its character: it’s fruit may have faded, it may smell and taste kind of dull. This can be because the wine is past its prime, or it has been stored in bad conditions.

Again, this could be a result of the wine being past its prime, and you’ll recognise it because the fruit characters have gone, and there’s a load of toffee, port-like, and caramel aromas. What a waste of wine — it’s not even good for vermouth now.