Tag Archives: Underground Cellar

Oh, No! A Bad Bottle!

Gristle in that last bite of steak. Biting into a mealy, mushy apple. Low-fat Mac & Cheese. There are few things in life more disappointing for a gastronome. But perhaps the most disappointing thing of all is pulling the cork on a bottle of wine, only to discover the wine is spoiled. Whether it’s a bargain bottle or a prize vintage, a spoiled wine can put a damper on an evening.

Perhaps the most common form of wine spoilage is cork taint. Cork taint, also known as “corked” wine, results from exposure to TCA, or 2,4,6-trichloroanisole. This chemical can occur in natural corks, and even at very small amounts, can ruin the wine in the bottle.

Wine Store Shelves

According to studies, as many as one in six of these bottles is corked.

Studies have found that cork taint affects up to 15% of cork-sealed wines, although the actual percentage is open to debate. The cork industry estimates only 1-2% of corks are affected. [1] The degree of cork taint can vary; mild taint mutes the aromas and flavors, and leaves the wine tasting flat. At greater levels, however, corked wines have been described as smelling like Corked Winesweaty gym socks, wet newspaper, or wet dog. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve tasted more than 200 wines in the past year, and only encountered 2 corked bottles; less than 1%. If you’ve never experienced this, consider yourself lucky. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

The obvious solution to eliminate tainted corks is to switch to alternate corks_vs_screw_capsclosures, such as screwcaps. Screwcaps are gaining in popularity, but face opposition from purists, and questions about long-term aging under screwcap. However, the cork versus screwcap debate is fodder for a future blog post. This post is about bad bottles.

Oxidation is another form of wine spoilage that can occur under any type of seal. Although most common with corks, if a screwcap does not properly seal on the bottle, oxygen can leak in and, worse yet, wine can leak out. It’s never happened to me, but I know people who have received a case of wine only to find a faulty screwcap has leaked wine all over the inside of the box.

Oxygen can be good for wine, in limited quantities. Oxygen opens up a wine, releasing the aromas and flavors we long for. However, over exposure to oxygen can “turn” a wine. Have you ever left an open bottle of red wine on the counter for 3-4 days? That’s what an oxidized wine tastes like. Overly ripe, stewed prune or raisin aromas; flat, bitter flavors; and a brownish-brick color are indicators of an oxidized wine.


Uh oh. This can’t be good.

Last night I opened a $10 Rioja Crianza, only to become disappointed. As soon as I pulled the cork, I knew something was wrong. The discoloration on the cork is from the wine leaching into the cork. Wine leaching out means oxygen can leach in. One sniff confirmed my fears. The freshly opened bottle smelled and tasted like it had been left out over the weekend. Sure, it wasn’t a high-end bottle, but I was really looking forward to this wine. Besides, 10 bucks is 10 bucks! Fortunately, although I didn’t have another bottle, or even another Rioja, I had plenty of options for other bottles to open and enjoy with dinner.

So what to do when you get a bad bottle? Any retailer worth their salt will exchange or refund your bottle, no questions asked. If they won’t, don’t shop there again. A replacement bottle is ideal, but what about Internet wine retailers? Earlier this year, I received a corked, $42 Pinot Noir from Underground Cellar, an online retailer featuring limited-time offers. Since they didn’t have any more in stock, they couldn’t replace the bottle, but they generously gave me a $50 credit for my troubles. Return policies will vary. The best I know of is NakedWines.com, where they will credit your account for any wine you don’t like – even if there is nothing wrong with the wine itself.

If you think you have a bad bottle of wine, don’t hesitate to return it or contact the retailer. They want you to be happy!

Happy Toasting


[1] http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/Wine-Flaws-Cork-Taint-and-TCA_3346

Review: Mutt Lynch Fou Fou le Blanc 2013


“…she’s amazing, she’s eccentric, some might even say barking mad…” That’s the teaser on the label to describe this delightful Sauvignon Blanc.


In my ongoing exploration of Sauvignon Blanc, I found this fun bottle. Mutt Lynch winery themes all their wines around dogs. And for good reason. Mutt Lynch donates a portion of the profits from each bottle they sell to animal rescue organizations. If that isn’t reason enough to support them, their wines are really good, too!

From the Fou Fou le Blanc info sheet:

Our 2013 Fou Fou Le Blanc White is a delicate blend of Sauvignon Blanc,
Chennin Blanc, and Verdelho — a grape varietal known for being crisp and
fruit-forward. This release clearly showcases the Sauvignon Blanc and con-
tinues to reflect Brenda’s rules for producing a great white —pick ripe fruit,
avoid herbaceous aromas and flavors, protect the wine’s natural acidity dur-
ing fermentation and no oak. The 2013 Fou Fou Le Blanc White is a wonder-
ful embodiment of this approach and delivers to you a delightfully fresh and
well-balanced wine. Fou Fou for you!

I found Fou Fou le Blanc to be a pleasant variation from many of the citrus-driven California Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted this summer. Fou Fou le Blanc has more tropical flavors, with citrus undertones. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bracing, citrusy SB in the heat of the summer, but now that we’re (finally) into the cooler, autumn weather here in Northern California, the soft, tropical notes were really enjoyable. Here’s what I thought about it, in my Vivino review:

Straw color with soft aromas of elderflower and white peach. There are flavors of gooseberry, honeysuckle, and pear, with mango and papaya on the finish. The fruit flavors drive this wine, giving it a sweet profile although it is not a sweet wine. The mouthfeel is soft, almost creamy, with very smooth acidity. This is a very easy-drinking, tropical Sauvignon Blanc.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5 Stars
Purchased from Underground Cellar, $13.00.
Coconut crusted mahi with horseradish_hero_0

Fou Fou le Blanc is delicious on its own, but it really shined when we paired it with Coconut-Crusted Mahi Mahi with Horseradish-Orange Marmalade. Spectacular pairing!

If you get a chance to sample some Fou Fou le Blanc, or any of Mutt Lynch Winery’s other wines, don’t let it pass you by! You’ll enjoy the wine, while supporting animal rescue efforts. That’s a win-win!