The Nasty Smells That Tell You That Something’s Wrong With Your Italian Wine

You’ve been waiting for this all day…

The stress of the day starts to melt away as soon as you pop the cork. You pour the Italian wine nice and slowly into a glass, savouring every single moment.

You can almost taste the first sip…

But before you take it, you introduce your nose to the bouquet.

And straight away the smell puts you off!

Surely this can’t be the wine’s actual bouquet? You take another sniff and decide that this wine is going nowhere near your lips.

Your nose is one of the most valuable tools that you have when it comes to wine. 99 times out of 100, you’ll use it to pick out all of the unique notes in the wine’s bouquet.

But every so often, your nose will tell you that there’s something very wrong with the wine you wanted to drink. 

Now, here’s something you may not know.

There are specific smells that a wine can give off that tell you about the specific problem that it has. If you detect any of the following, it’s a good idea to put the wine down and try another bottle.

Smell #1 – The Hard Boiled Egg

Now, we’re not saying that egg smells terrible. But it’s probably the last scent that you want to run into when you’re about to drink a glass of wine. The smell of rotten eggs is pretty common in food that’s gone off.

But the smell of a hardboiled egg?

This tells you that there’s a pretty serious problem with your wine. And it all comes down to a chemical called Hydrogen Sulphide. If you crack open an egg and sniff the yoke, you’ll get a healthy dose of the stuff.

Hydrogen Sulphide forms when the Sulphur Dioxide in the wine does too good of a job. Winemakers use Sulphur Dioxide to keep the oxygen content in a wine nice and low. The problem arises if the oxygen disappears completely. This leads to a process called reduction, the by-product of which is the Hydrogen Sulphide that you can smell.

But here’s some good news.

You can repair a wine that has this smell.

Just pour it into a glass and give it a good swirl. Give it a moment to oxidize and keep checking the wine. Eventually, you should notice that the smell dissipates as the oxygen returns the wine to its natural state.

Smell #2 – Flatulence

This is the smell that you get when Hydrogen Sulphide truly goes rogue. If the wine’s left so long that the Hydrogen Sulphide reduces too much, you end up with a chemical called methyl mercaptan.

That’s the chemical that’s responsible for bad breath and some other scents…including flatulence.

Nobody wants a face full of that sort of smell when they were anticipating the sweet and fruity notes of their favourite Italian wine!

Unfortunately, this is a problem that may be unfixable. Some will tell you that adding a little bit of copper to the wine will neutralise the stinky chemical. But we don’t think that’s going to dot the wine’s composition much good. And after experiencing the smell that just hit you, going back to the wine may not be the most attractive idea in the world.

It’s probably best to pour the glass down the sink if it smells this bad!

Smell #3 – Wet Dog

There’s just something so unappealing about the smell of a wet dog. As much as you love your four-legged friend, you’re not that keen to get up close and personal with them if they’ve been out in the rain, are you?

Unfortunately, this is a smell that even the best Italian wines can end up with under certain conditions.

It comes from a chemical called 2,4,6 trichloranisole, perhaps better known as TCA. Usually, this chemical gets into the wine when it’s used to clean wood that will come into contact with the wine. That means any barrels or corks that have trace amounts of TCA on them can ruin at least a bottle, and in some cases entire batches, of Italian wine.

This is another one that’s very difficult to remedy. But you could try running the wine through a filter, like a plastic bag. Cut a small hole in the bottom of the bag and pour the wine into it. Drip the wine from the bag into a glass. As you do, the plastic should catch a good amount of the TCA. The wine probably still won’t have its ideal characteristics. But it will go from almost undrinkable to at least somewhat tasty.

Smell #4 – Rotting Apples

Remember how we said that oxidation is the best solution for the Hydrogen Sulphide problem.

Well, you might want to be careful about just how much oxygen you let into your wine. While oxidation can solve some problems and even unlock a wine’s full potential, it can also destroy a wine.

Too much oxidation gives you a disgusting smell of rotten apples. It’s almost sickly sweet and it tells you that there’s something very wrong with the wine.

Now, there’s a difference between this smell and the sweet smell of a fortified wine. When your wines been over-oxidized, it smells acrid. And worst of all, you’ll see that it’s gone brown.

So…the solution?

Sadly, there isn’t one. Nothing can reverse the chemical change that a wine goes through when it’s exposed to too much oxygen. That’s why it’s always important to check the seal on a bottle of wine before buying it. Even a small gap could provide an opening for oxygen to ruin the wine.

The Final Word

Maybe some of these smells have hit you after pouring a bottle of wine?

Unfortunately, only a few of them have proven “cures”. And even then, you may be put off from the wine once you’ve experienced one of these nasty smells.

Thankfully, these issues arise very rarely. And at least now you know why they may happen.



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