Why does good wine go bad?

I recently gave a bottle of wine to a friend. A gewurztraminer because she said she liked gewurz and this was one I had a few bottles of on the shelf. A 2011 gewurztraminer from a fairly obscure tiny volume Marlborough producer that burst onto the wine scene in early 2012 with rave wine reviews, mine included, that can’t have helped them sell in the competitive wine market because I see from googling they are no longer trading.

Anyway I was having butter chicken curry for dinner and decided to open one of the bottles for myself because gewurz and curry often go well together.

I was disappointed. The wine had a cloying sweetness without the acidity to balance it out. ‘Perhaps it needs chilling,’ I thought. That didn’t help. And it didn’t work with the curry either.

I thought this gewurztraminer wine was dry-ish and my 2012 review confirmed this. Others’ reviews did too. So what’s being going on to make this screwcap sealed wine with no signs of oxidation, or other spoilage, go bad?

Is it some kind of microbiological activity? There are many scholarly articles on the subject. In summary microganisms such as yeasts, lactic bacteria and acetic bacteria can survive in wine – the latter what makes wine turn to vinegar. Well this wasn’t acetic, nor was it lactic (milky) so I’m putting it down to some ‘in the bottle’ changes perhaps arising from the wine’s low acidity and wild yeast fermentation.

I also found this Decanter (Nov 2016) article (http://www.decanter.com/learn/advice/what-happens-as-wine-ages-340685/) that begins: “As an aqueous solution of alcohol, acids, phenolic and flavour compounds, wine is a complex liquid undergoing constant changes. Its different elements constantly react with each other: water, glycosides, phenolics, alcohols and acids connect and disband, break down and hydrolyse, only to reconnect all over again, at varying speeds and in varying combinations.”

The Decanter article talks about good changes but obviously changes can be to a wine’s detriment as well :-(

Some pundits say gewurztraminer is made to drink young and the wine in question is clearly one that should have been. However I’m not going to be put off cellaring gewurztraminer because I’ve had glorious older gewurztraminers in the past. And I’m not going to be put off cellaring wine from unknown producers because if you don’t take the risk you’ll be kicking yourself when they become stars. This wine sadly not one of them.

I emailed my friend and asked not to drink the wine I gave her and sadly my remaining two bottles are going to be tipped down the sink.


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