As seasoned wine drinkers, we are perhaps all familiar with a number of commonly encountered wine faults.
For example, the dirty dishcloth smell of a corked wine is quite easily recognisable, though mercifully less evident these days, compared to a decade ago. The smell of sherry can be alluring if it’s a Fino or an Amontillado. However, if it’s a fine white Burgundy or recently bottled Sancerre, then the vagaries of oxidation have most likely taken effect.
The sweaty saddle aroma of Brettanomyces (a yeast infection) may be more familiar to wine professionals and perhaps a few knowledgeable wine consumers than the majority of wine drinkers. And then there’s the tell-tale prickle of a wine going through re-fermentation which is obviously undesirable if it’s a still white or red.
However, few people may be familiar with Lightstrike, wine professionals or wine enthusiasts alike. But is probably more common than you think and its effect on the wine can be devastating.
Lightstrike occurs when a wine is exposed to excessive ultraviolet light. The amino acids in the wine are converted into foul-smelling compounds which smell of cabbage, compost or wet wool. Delicate wines such as champagne are most susceptible. Dark-coloured bottles or ones with cellophane wrapping are effective at blocking lightstrike.
Lightstrike can damage a wine very quickly indeed – even within hours. Wines that are on shelves in supermarkets, under bright UV light, are particularly susceptible. Many rose wines are bottled in clear glass bottles. Part of their allure is the attractive colours on show. However, clear glass bottles subject to direct UV light could give you aromas and flavours you might not have bargained for!
So, in future, do think about the type of glass bottle when you next purchase your wine. In most instances the wine should be fine. However, if it smells ‘pongy’, then lightstrike may well have struck!