Anthony Rose: I'm sensitive to cork taint, less so to sulphur, which has some coughing like asthma victims

It's not normally the job of this column to regale you with the horror stories of wines tasted on your behalf. While wine writing is the job everyone except my teetotal aunt wants, especially those who don't regard it as a job at all, it does have its pitfalls, and sorting out the wheat from the chaff is one of them.

So it was that along with a group of journalists, educators and wine-trade buyers, I found nose, palate and ego being road-tested on a challenging wine course put on by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) aimed at training Australian wine-show judges.

As a prelude to the big test, Con Simos, the course instructor, reminded us that the stats from one of last year's biggest consumer competitions showed more than six in every 100 wines as faulty. Of those six-plus bottles, three of them suffered from cork taint, 1.5 from wine's equivalent of athlete's foot, known as brettanomyces, or brett. Knowing your onions then, or at least being able to sniff them out, was a pre-requisite for the job in hand.

In the morning session, the AWRI had kindly spiked 11 white and 11 red wines with chemicals representing the commonest wine faults, with the exception of one unspiked wine, to see if we could spot the clean one. Actually, Mr Simos suggested we didn't taste the wines but just smell them, a good idea given the number of horrors that emerged. These were wines, no part of which you would wish to put anywhere inside your body.

Cork taint, or TCA, was there, as expected, giving off a mouldy cardboardy aroma, but there was also a wine which smelt corked, but had a screwcap. This was thanks to a similar compound, TBA, an infection from warehouses and cellars.

We also found brett, the character giving off a horsey odour, a problem which can be rife in ripe wines with high levels of alcohol coming into contact with oak. And so it went on and on: bruised apples and pears from acetaldehyde, caged mice from a "mousy" compound, geranium from sorbic acid, onions from mercaptan, rotten egg from hydrogen sulphide, nail-polish remover from ethyl acetate and vinegar from acetic acid.

Cork taint has a zero tolerance, but brett, and some other faults, have a threshold of acceptability. In fact, some people even seem to like a bit of horse in their wine. The dividing line between what's acceptable and what's not can be a subjective one and it was interesting to see that some tasters are more susceptible to certain taints than others.

I'm sensitive to cork taint, for instance, less so to sulphur, which has some tasters gasping and coughing like asthma victims.

The rest of the day was spent testing the accuracy of our palates by blind tasting, evaluating and scoring 20 white wines and 20 reds that had been awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal or commended in this year's International Wine Challenge. So far so good, until we found out that each wine was repeated. Since each wine had its pair in both whites and reds, our suitability as judges depended on how consistently we were able to match each wine with its pair. The AWRI took away our scores to let us know if we passed our MoT (Master of Tasting). A daunting prospect, the results of which I promise to put up on my site.

anthonyrosewine.com

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: .NET Developers / Software Developers

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: our .NET Developers / Software Dev...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-Qualified Accountant) - Manchester

    £23000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat