When is a wine ‘off’?

There are a lot of misconceptions around the concept of wine that has gone off.

Okaythe classic example is a wine that has been tainted by a bad cork or by unhygienic winemaking. I.e. a ‘corked’ wine. This is why people often sniff the cork as part of the wine tasting ritual. The culprit here is a chemical compound called TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole). It is present in moulds that can grow in a cork tree, and can also exist in damp surfaces within a winery environment. The chemical is so powerful, that we can detect a few parts per trillion. Typically, and at its worst, TCA smells like mouldy damp cardboard. In diluted amounts it robs the wine of any fruit flavours. Hence the gamble of wines sealed with a natural cork – and why I am such a fan of the screw top closure.

Probably the second most common fault is a wine that is oxidised. This can happen when a cork breaks down over time and oxygen interacts with the wine, making it smell like sherry – or even vinegar. Also if a wine is opened for a few days, oxidation will start to happen. (That’s why I hardly ever order wine by the glass at a restaurant or wine bar).

Less commonly are sulphides as a result of faulty winemaking, which typically results in a smell like rotten eggs or burnt rubber. Another fault – volatile acidity (VA) gives the wine aromas of acetone (nail polish remover). VA is acceptable in sweet dessert wines, but is a fault if you discover it in a normal dry table wine.

Anyway, here is a selection of wines that have definitely passed the test and come out squeaky clean!

Tohu Whenua Awa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2018  $30.00
A very approachable style of sauvignon. Typical aromas of gooseberry and passionfruit, but an unusually softer medium palate with rich guava, green capsicum and passion fruit, with a tad of lychee fruit.
Availability: Glengarry.

Main Divide North Canterbury Sauvignon Blanc 2019  $21.00
Second tier label from Pegasus Bay, delivers great bang for buck across the whole range. Cape gooseberry and passionfruit aromas and a big hit of crisp elderberry, pink tinned guava and fresh cut pineapple, with clean mineral acidity.
Availability: Glengarry.

Giesen Marlborough Pinot Gris 2018 $13.00
Nice and juicy pinot gris from Giesen. Great value for a fruity, drink any time wine. Flavours of stewed apple, nashi pear and a dash of fresh pineapple.
Availability: vineonline.co.nz

Hera Gisborne Chardonnay 2018 $70.00
From consistent Gisborne producer, Odyssey wines, this is a premium chardonnay with a great pedigree. Handpicked Mendoza clone fruit and fermented in 50% new French oak. A very elegant chardonnay that reminds me of Kumeu River. Creamy palate with toasty hazelnut woven through ripe nectarine and pear, with a lengthy crisp finish.
Availability: Caros Wines

Dry River Martinborough Syrah 2016 $70.00
Another stunner from Dry River. Who says that you can’t make fab syrah south of Hawke’s Bay? Inky crimson in the glass, this wine is big and bold with firm tannins, lush ripe Black Doris plum and black cherry. Laced with a hint of peppery spice and fruitcake, this one’s a definite keeper. Very drinkable now, but could cellar for ten years.

Availability: Caros

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