This week our Sommelier Wine Awards senior judges rolled up their sleeves at Yauatcha City to learn about wine faults – and experience them first-hand as well. The seminar, led by Annette Scarfe MW, was the first in a series of events and seminars for this elite team of tasters.
After a description of nine different faults, Scarfe presented the assembled sommeliers with examples of each, along with a control sample, asking the judges to identify each fault based on their new-found knowledge.
TCA, as well as the very similar TBA, was relatively easy to identify, with its characteristic musty, wet cardboard aromas. Geosmin, meanwhile, caused a pronounced earthy aroma that a number of tasters described as raw beetroot. Methoxypyrazine added a vegetal, green pepper note.
Brett, unsurprisingly, resulted in the most colourful tasting notes from the senior judges, with descriptions ranging from band aids to donkeys. Interestingly, brett had a detrimental effect on the wine's tannins too, drying them out. 'It changes the tannin structure – they become angular,' confirmed Tate's Hamish Anderson.
The oxidised wine had noticeable bruised apple and sherry aromas, while the reductive sample was less easy to pick out. In more extreme examples, this would have demonstrated notes of garlic, rotten egg, or even sewage. The wine with volatile acidity, meanwhile, had a very familiar aroma: nail varnish remover.
Finally, lightstrike, Scarfe explained, can affect wines exposed to sunlight for even short periods of time, causing anything from cabbage to burnt rubber notes.
Carlos de Jesus, marketing director of sponsor Amorim & Irmaos, commented: 'We, at Amorim, feel that it is important that wine professionals, such as sommeliers, should know how to recognise wine faults, and the different reasons behind them. They are, after all, the wine 'ambassadors' when bottles – under all types of closures – are opened and served to the guests. We are dedicated to developing a greater understanding about wine faults in general, and in educating all those involved in the serving and selling of wine in particular.'