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This article originally appeared in Camana Bay Times. Words by Heather Branch.

You take that first sip of your bright white or juicy red wine and you realise something isn’t right. Maybe the wine tastes a little flat, smells a bit musty or has a chemical smell. You might be experiencing a wine fault. 

A lot of unsound wine is consumed without the drinker's knowing it. The threshold or sensitivity to faults is as subjective as individual tastes. A wine you find perfectly acceptable might be undrinkable to someone else. 

However, drinking wine is supposed to be pleasurable and if a wine fault is distracting, the wine is not worth drinking. If you find — or suspect — a fault in the wine you're drinking, feel confident with your own palate to ask for a replacement or a refund, depending on the situation. Most restaurants or retailers can confirm your suspicion.

Some common wine faults include:

A wine with cork taint is often referred to as "corked." The fault is caused by a chemical called trichloroanisole that is introduced through a defective cork or at the winery. When cork taint is pronounced, it smells like mouldy, wet cardboard or pet fur. At lower levels, the wine feels muted with dulled fruit and might not be detectable on the nose. 

A wine that is madeirised wine is sometimes referred to as "cooked." With this fault, the wine has been subjected to heat after bottling. The wine will taste flat and stripped of its bright characteristics, tasting of stewed fruit. Being stored or shipped without adequate refrigeration is the most common culprit.

Oxidation is a fault occurs when a wine has been subjected to too much oxygen (think of a browning apple once it is cut). The wine loses its brightness in both colour and flavour. In most cases the bottle has been open or stored too long, but sometimes the fault is caused in the winery or by a defective closure. This fault should not be confused with an oxidative style wine, where the effect is intentional, or in aged wines, which all oxidise to some degree as they get older.

Flaws vs. faults

Whereas a wine fault is unacceptable, a wine flaw, in the right amount, adds a uniqueness that becomes integral to the taste experience and should be savoured. Beauty can often be found in imperfection and flaws can be a natural part of beauty, but a fault is a fault.

Volatile acidity is one such flaw. It's hard to find a great Italian Amarone that doesn't have it; however if there's too much volatile acidity, a wine will smell like vinegar or nail polish remover. 

Brettanomyces, often simply called "brett," is another flaw that can offer benefits. Brett is a type of wild yeast that can create aromas in wine that range from old leather to a barnyard. Some of the best older Bordeaux and Rhone wines from France have some brett. Too much brett, however, can be unpleasant to many wine drinkers.

Heather Branch is the sommelier at Blue by Eric Ripert at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman

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Updated: Oct 25, 2019


This article originally appeared in Camana Bay Times

Long before biodynamic farming became a trendy practice in wine production, Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma County was way ahead of the curve. Benziger was one of the early converts to biodynamic farming in California, starting the transition in 1995. In 2000, the Demeter Association certified Benziger as a biodynamic farm and the following year it released its first certified biodynamic wine. Since 2006, all of Benziger's wines have been certified biodynamic, organic or sustainable.

Biodynamic farming is more difficult and more expensive than other forms of modern viniculture, but Benziger chose to adopt the practice, not because it was  trendy and offered marketing benefits, but instead because the family wanted to farm its properties in a sustainable way that helped regenerate the land. Although most people wouldn't be able to distinguish a wine produced with biodynamically grown grapes just by tasting, over the long term, a vineyard will produce better and healthier grapes, and thus better wines, through biodynamic farming.

Benziger's Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon is an entry-level sustainable wine. Blended from grapes sourced from some of Benziger's premier vineyards, this affordable-yet-rich wine offers juicy berry flavours with soft tannins, making it an easy-drinking, crowd pleaser that will pair nicely with meats off the barbecue — steaks, burgers, pork ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket. 

Always a good value priced in the mid-$20 range, this month Benziger's Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon is on sale for CI$20.49 — a savings of $5 — at West Indies Wine Company. 

  • WIWC

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

This article originally appeared in Camana Bay Times

Because Pinot Noir is such a finicky grape that needs particular environmental conditions to thrive, quality wines made with Pinot Noir tend to be more expensive than red wines of similar quality made with other grapes. However, good value can be found in Pinot Noirs

made by large producers that can employ economies of scale. Such is the case with La Crema, one of 40 wine brands owned by Jackson Family Wines. With wineries in California and Oregon in the United States, as well as in France, Italy, Australia, Chile and South Africa, Jackson Family Wines is one of the largest wine producers in the world. The La Crema brand itself is diversified, having been established in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley in 1979 and, after being purchased by Jackson Family Wines in 1993, having added vineyards in Anderson Valley, Los Carneros, Monterey and the Sonoma Coast in California, as well as in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Pinot Noir loves a cool climate. Because of its proximity to the chilly North Pacific Ocean, the Sonoma coast experiences warm summer days and cool nights, a perfect combination for producing high-quality Pinot Noir wines that display ripe fruit flavours balanced by good acidity. La Crema’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a bold expression of the grape. It displays aromas of red fruits with notes of sweet tobacco earthiness and flavours of red and black fruits, with a bit of spice. Those who enjoy big red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah will find La Crema’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, with its bold flavours and firm tannins, to their liking. Pair it with grilled salmon, pork chops and things with wings —duck, turkey or dishes made with chicken thighs or legs.

Normally CI$29.99, this month it’s available for the special price of CI$24.99 at West Indies Wine Company.

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