Hello wine lovers and happy wine Wednesday! I hope it has been a great week for you!  We have been blessed with an exceptionally pretty spring day today here in Vancouver, B.C.

As I mentioned last week, I was headed up to Penticton for my first weekend of two ‘wine fault assessment’ workshop weekends put on by the BC VQA.  I didn’t know what I was getting into but lets just say that my nose has still not recovered!

There are ten participants in total who have varying degrees of wine education but we all LOVE wine.  Dr. David McArthur, who is a professor of agriculture at U.B.C., led this most fascinating workshop on how to identify a ‘fault’ in wine.  Included was a nice overview of wine varieties and winemaking along with some tutored tastings.  The goal here was to have the group agree on flavour and taste profiles in specific grape varieties…for the most part – there was consensus.

Then, things got funky…and I do NOT mean ‘Motown Funk’ I mean ‘good God, what is that smell?’ funky.  The purpose of the BC VQA is to have its members wines go through blind tastings for faults.  This ensures that BC VQA wines that are released are ‘fault-free’ and this keeps the reputation up for the winery members.  So – we marched boldly into unknown territory on day one and had the ‘pleasure’ of learning about faults related to wine processing or storage and the second bunch reflected bacterial spoilage in wine.

Day one:

  • Foxy – Methyl Anthranilate (Labrusca) – this scent caused me concern because it smells like Welch’s grape juice and isn’t unpleasant. However, BC VQA does not allow the Labrusca grape so it is considered a fault.
  • Oxidation – Acetaldehyde – solvent aroma with hints of green olive and almond – again not unpleasant
  • Oxidation – Bruised apple…a hint of a sweet sherry smell or brown sugar
  • Volatile Acidity – Acetic Acid …smells and tastes like vinegar
  • Volatile Acidity – Ethyl Acetate…nail polish remover aromas usually caused by yeasts
  • Geranium – this taint comes from a misfiring of the malolactic fermentation process
  • Lactic/ Sour – sauerkraut/rotting cabbage – good times here – my nose was in utter revolt mode now
  • Butyric – Parmesan cheese/vomit …OMG enough said.

Day two focused our attention on sulphur compounds in the morning and then yeast or fungal problems in the afternoon:

  • Hydrogen Sulfide – rotten eggs/hot springs off gases
  • Sulphur Defects: Sulfides – cooked cabbage/garlic
  • Sulphur Defects: Disulfides – raw onion…straight up
  • Sulphur Defects: Thios – Methyl Mercaptan – bad breath, rotting fecal matter
  • Sulphur Defects: Thios – Ethyl Mercaptan – rotting onions/pulp mill stench
  • Sulfur Dioxide – burnt match aromas cause intense prickling irritation to the nose


  • Brettanomyces – barnyard and horse pee…this is the reason I resist going into horse stables!
  • Brettanomyces – medicinal…think ‘dental office’ and old hospital smell
  • Refermentation – yeasty smells of a bakery
  • Tyrene or 2,4,6 trichloro anisole (T.C.A.) – mouldy paper and wet basement (cork taint)

I felt more confident on the second day.  The sulphur and fungal compounds were easier for me to recognize and I didn’t have quite the extreme headache at the end of day two as I did after the first day.

I have my second weekend coming up with no idea of what bizarre swamp water of odours my nose is going to be subjected to…I can only wait and sniff.

Until then – I will enjoy smelling freshly cut grass, beautiful wine bouquets, spring flowers, my daughters freshly washed hair…you have no idea how I used to take these smells for granted – but no more!