What To Do When Your Wine Smells

January 26, 2016


Ask Wine Spectator…


Q: I recently had a white wine that smelled like rotten eggs. Can it be saved? Or is it a lost cause?—Luke C., Toronto, Ontario


A: When I encounter a wine that smells like rotten eggs, I immediately think of what are called “reduced” notes. They occur when wine is made in a reductive winemaking style, where the wine’s exposure to oxygen is limited. A byproduct of reductive winemaking can be volatile sulfur compounds called mercaptans, which smell like rotten eggs to me, but I’ve also heard their aroma described as fresh rubber, rotten cabbage, struck matches or even sewage. Yum, right?


If that’s the case, there might be good news. Those stinky compounds are typically more prominent when the bottle is first opened. After some air and swirling, you might find that the notes “blow off,” either becoming less prominent or disappearing altogether.

There’s one more life hack that might work. If it is definitely mercaptans causing the stink, and if you have a penny minted before 1982, try dropping the penny into your wineglass—the copper will help the mercaptans dissipate.

—MaryAnn Worobiec


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