“Bad” Wine or Bad Manners?


Bad wine?

There seems to be a unique group of people out there who think it is acceptable to return a perfectly good bottle of wine after it is opened. They have no qualms returning an opened bottle to a store or declining one in a restaurant simply because it does not appeal to them. Not only is it rude, but it makes me wonder if they also do this with other things in their lives. Do they cook up a steak and return that to the store, half-eaten, if they are not enjoying it? Do they go to a movie, walk out and ask for a refund if they are not entertained? Life is all about taking chances and the same goes when making some purchases; they are not all “satisfaction guaranteed”. Return policies were put into place, mostly to take back items that are defective; unopened or unused purchases are taken back as a courtesy to customers. Some people will take advantage of this policy, even in the wine industry.

That is not to say there are not situations when it is quite appropriate to return an opened bottle of wine. During production or in storage, wine flaws can occur which will have a negative impact  on a wine’s aroma, color or taste. Here are the most common flaws you should be aware of:

A “Corked” Bottle Sometimes the cork used in bottling wine can become infected with a compound called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole or TCA. This is what gives wine a moldy or musty aroma or what is called “corked” or “cork taint”. This tiny compound can also be found on winemaking implements or in some parts of the winery’s environment (barrels, walls, etc). 

The Color is Off If your red wine looks brownish, almost muddy, or your white wine is too deep a yellow, chances are your wine has oxidized. This is a chemical reaction that takes place when the wine is  harmfully exposed to air. This happens if a cork is not airtight enough in storage and also with wines you may have kept open too long. 

Bubbles or “Fizz” in Still Wines If still wine appears to have “tiny bubbles”, it would not “make me happy, make me feel fine”, as sung by Don Ho in the famous 1960s song. This means the wine is going through a second fermentation in the bottle and chances are it will be sour.

Should you drink wine that has any of these flaws, it will certainly be unpleasant, but there are no health risks to you. Returning wine to a store or letting your waiter/sommelier know, even if you suspect one of these flaws, is perfectly fine; you should not be embarrassed. Years ago at a restaurant with a friend, we ordered a bottle of Italian wine; I believe it was a Sangiovese. Tasting it first, I was a little unsure; I had my friend taste it as well. We both agreed that the wine was “bad”. This was before I took a class so I did not know the lingo; I just knew enough to sense something was not right and my friend agreed. Instead of taking the bottle back, the waiter sent over the manager, who tasted the wine and told us there was absolutely nothing wrong with the bottle. He made such a scene, eventually bringing over another bottle of something and we have not been back to that restaurant since. Bad wine, bad attitude, equals bad business.

If, for some reason, a bottle of wine that you purchased from a store does not appeal to you, you can actually repurpose it:

Use it for Cooking I have cubes of white wine and red in my freezer that I have on hand for adding flavor to cooking. Pour the bottle of wine into ice-cube trays and freeze. This also works if you have leftover (what?) wine. 

Make Vinegar You do not have to do a thing! Just leave a 3/4 full bottle of wine opened and out for a few weeks and it will convert to vinegar all by itself. Red or white – voila’!

Bacteria Killer This one I find fascinating and wish I knew sooner. A study done out of Oregon State University by food scientist, Mark Daeschel, concluded that there are attributes in wine that destroy or inhibit the growth of microorganisms, thus making it a great cleanser for fruits and vegetables, as well as a general disinfectant. After rinsing your produce in water, just run it under some wine; you do not want to soak it. By just rinsing you may pick up some wine flavor, which is just an added benefit as far as I am concerned.

Even if wine has gone bad, you can still use it for all of the above purposes.

So remember – returning bad wine, good; returning good wine, bad!

Cin Cin!

Have you ever returned a bottle of wine to a store? 

  1. Yes, it was “bad”.
  2. Yes, I opened it; did not like it.
  3. Yes, it was unopened; I knew I did not like it. (a gift?)
  4. No, never.
  5. No and I never will. I can find something to do with it.

Join in on our discussion!