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How to tell if a wine is pricked

We say a wine has oxidised when it is at a very advanced stage of oxidation. It takes on a very particular flavour caused by a chemical mix of alcohol, oxygen and some microorganisms known as acetic acid bacteria that covert ethanol into vinegar. In this article, we’ll explain how to tell if a wine has pricked. 

WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?

This happens when you keep wine in contact with oxygen for too long, exposing it to the effect of acetic acid bacteria. These aerobic bacteria need oxygen in order to survive. We’ll tell you the main reason why wine can be pricked:  

  1. Bad practice during wine-making. Wines that leave the winery oxidised are increasingly less common, specifically thanks to technological developments being implemented in the production process. However, there is always a possibility of it happening.  Excessive contact with oxygen during the fermentation and maceration process, air getting into the barrels or faults in the bottling and sealing process can end up in wines getting pricked. 
  2. Poor handling during commercialisation. During this process, it is very important to control the oxygen levels that the product is exposed to, as well as the wine containers.  

 As such, air getting into the bottles because they move around too much during transportation, exposure to sudden changes in temperature or incorrect storage temperatures, exposing the bottle to light sources or leaving wine bottles open for days can cause a wine to turn vinegary.   

Cómo saber si el vino está picado

BEFORE YOU TASTE IT: TAKE A LOOK AT IT IN THE BOTTLE OR GLASS

How can you tell if a wine is pricked before you taste it? There are some clues that might give away the condition of a wine before you try it. This way, you can avoid drinking a vinegary wine that could ruin your culinary experience. Take a look at what we mean below:   

  • In the bottle: if you can see that some wine is missing with the cork still in it, or if the cork is defective or has too much wine in it, you might have a bottle of wine in poor conditions.   
  • In the glass: when you pour out the wine, a pricked wine will look somewhat cloudy and lacklustre. What’s more, there could even be a slight sheen on the surface of the wine that you can detect as light reflects off of it. 

 If you have a red wine with some orangey tones in it, this might suggest that the wine will have a vinegary flavour that won’t be all too pleasant. If you bring it up to your nose, you might pick up on some chemically aromas like glue, nail polish remover or hairspray.  

 However, you might not notice any important changes until you actually get round to tasting it. This is the definitive test! If you notice a harsh flavour with no trace of fruity or floral aromas, and there’s a slight vinegary flavour in the mix, you’ve definitely got an oxidised wine on your hands.   

Bodegas en la Rioja de El Coto de Rioja

CAN YOU PREVENT IT?

Because wine, wood and cork are organic materials, there’s always a slight chance that a culture of acetic acid bacteria could form in a bottle of wine. As such, to avoid a wine oxidising, it is crucial to control its exposure to oxygen.  

If this isn’t done correctly and air gets into the wine at some step along the way in the wine-making process, it’s fairly likely that this could lead to the flavour of the wine becoming drastically different. In the end, the experience of drinking the wine will be mired by the vinegary taste 

All of our wines undergo a very strict quality control process to ensure that the wine-making process and the transportation of our products is just right up until they reach the points of sale. By purchasing products from our online store, you can be sure that our wine will reach you directly from our wineries, with meticulous care in the delivery process. 

If you found this article on how to tell if a wine is oxidised interesting, why not take a look at one of our WineClass episodes to help you learn how to pick out different aromas in wine?   

Learn to identify the aromas in wine