Signs and reasons for bad wine – and what we can do to help!

From time to time, a WineCollective member will experience receiving a bad bottle of wine in a subscription package. This of course, is undesirable for both our customers and us, however, is an unlucky occurrence that will happen. Wine industry professionals have noted that one in every 20 bottles of wine is tainted or corked in some way, although, we have been fortunate in receiving only a handful over the last year!

Our WineCollective policy includes the replacement or refund of any bad, or “off” bottle of wine, and below we’ve listed a few signs that you should look out for when popping any cork.



He knows he smells… Photo by Sophie Gamand

Vinegar or nail polish remover: Acid bacteria known as volatile acidity can cause an overly acidic smell to your wine. Although a glass may not be harmful to drink, it may burn and taste unpleasant overall.

Wet cardboard or wet dog: Not a great companion to red berry fruits, a wet cardboard smell is a sign of your wine being corked. At some point, the cork used was carrying mold, leaving behind a chemical known as trichloroanisole (TCA). Small amounts of this chemical can completely throw off a wine’s flavour.

Overly Sweet

An overly sweet red wine can be caused by too much sun exposure to the bottle. While not harmful, sweet is not meant for a Cab Sauv. Avoid leaving wine bottles near windows or heaters, and always be sure to properly cellar in cool temperatures, around 13 degrees Celsius.

Brown Colour

oak aging

Red wine that has turned brown-ish is a sign of oxidization, or overexposure to air. This is especially apparent in young wines, which should hold a ruby colour, where as older wines are known to portray more of a garnet tone. A simple sign to watch out for is a slightly pushed out cork. Leaving wine out in the open for 48 hours will cause it’s colour to turn – a great way to test out oxidization on wine.


A recent call from a WineCollective member came from her concern of a fizzy red wine. After reading our tasting card, she knew this was no Lambrusco! This is caused by an unwanted second fermentation, occurring in the bottle. This fizz will also not hurt you in any way. However, you may want to drink the wine, the way it was meant to be enjoyed!


If you do receive a bad bottle of wine in your package, please let us know! Call us at 1.855.501.9463 or email within 30 days of your shipment. If the wine is in stock, we are happy to send you a replacement, as we would love for you to try what we picked out for you! Otherwise, we can place a credit on your account for the price of the bottle.


Returning an off bottle is not exclusive to WineCollective. We recommend that you use all of your senses when trying wine, and if you note bad qualities, tell your server or liquor store attendant! With your experience and wine education, notifying someone of a bad bottle is nothing to be shy about, and should* earn you a full refund.

For more information on icky wine, or to receive a replacement for a bad bottle, please contact us. #YYC members, don’t forget you can now come visit and chat with us at 22 1259 Highfield Crescent S.E.

*We can not guarantee that restaurants and other liquor stores will be as cool as us.