Spoiled Wine and the Misunderstood Wine Cellar

Wine cellars from Rosehill Wine Cellars

It’s rarely the wine cellar’s fault, when wine spoils, if you have relied on professionals for construction and lighting.

A custom wine cellar built by experts who specialize in creating the ideal wine environment is often mistaken as being faulty. After all, the purpose of having a wine cellar is to protect and preserve wine so that it can be enjoyed at the point of optimal maturity. Questions arise when a clear percentage of the wine from a cellar is discovered to have gone bad. It’s only natural to wonder if the wine cooling unit or other components of the wine cellar failed, resulting in spoiled wine. The blame for bad wine very rarely lies in the construction or maintenance of a wine cellar, however. Across the wine industry and in wine collections everywhere, it can be expected that about 5% to 10% of the wine will turn out to be undrinkable. This is why waiters at restaurants allow diners to taste their wine and give their approval or send the bottle back. There are four basic reasons that wine goes bad, and they are that the wine is: Oxidized, corked, refermented, or cooked.


Just as air affects a cut apple, turning it brown, too much air has an undesirable effect on wine. One of the reasons corks are ideal for sealing bottles of wine is that the natural material allows in miniscule amounts of oxygen during sometimes years of storage. Wines become oxidized if too much air gets in. For instance, if a cork dries out, which can occur as a direct result of how and where the wine is stored, oxidation ruins the wine. If you have a professionally built wine cellar and use wine racks as recommended by experts, you can typically avoid having any dried out corks.


When a fungal compound called 2,4,6-trichloranisole (TCA), also known as cork taint, gets into cork, a musty odor is imparted into the wine. You can recognize corked wine when the bottle is opened and you smell the contents. The sniffing notes are described as smelling of moldy cardboard, dirty socks that have been left too long in the hamper, or musty basement. TCA is usually caused by problems in the environment of wineries, such as antifungal treatments and moldy cellars.


When yeast and sugar are still in fermented wine, the wine will literally begin fermenting in the bottle again. This causes the wine to be off-flavored and a wee bit bubbly. Spritz is desirable in champagne but not in fine still wine.


When wine has been exposed to excessive heat, such as in bad storage, it becomes baked or maderized. It will literally taste like Madeira, with flavors of candied fruits and almonds. You can sometimes spot cooked wine before opening it because the cork will usually push partly out of the neck, due to expansion.

While it’s true that a faulty wine cellar can be the cause of cooked or oxidized wine, having the guidance of professionals like those at Rosehill Wine Cellars can ensure that it doesn’t happen to you. It’s usually a safe bet that spoiled wine is not the wine cellar’s fault.