Here’s something that may shock you…some of your favorite wines may have faults to them. Does that mean that your palate is so dull that you are drinking and enjoying awful wines? Not at all. Wine faults can come in all shapes and sizes, and in minimal or trace amounts they can even add favorable components to a wine.
Take Brettanomyces (commonly referred to as “Brett”) for example. This strain of bacteria has been known to infect certain barrels of wine and sometimes even entire wineries. At its worst it can impart an overwhelming barnyard or manure characteristic on a wine that provides the sensation of having just completed a 5 mile horse trot. Clearly, this is undesirable and a fault in said wine.
However, in small doses it has the ability to add subtle hints of earthiness and terroir that can enhance the complexity of a wine and come off quite pleasing to certain palates. But is it possible for a wine to technically have a fault, however slight it may be, and still be considered a high quality wine? The answer is yes it can. Which then raises another interesting question…where is the line that the wine crosses over from enjoyable to flawed?
The answer to this is one is a little more intricate. What may come off as a favorable aroma to one person could be disagreeable to another deeming the wine unsuitable for consumption. This doesn’t occur just with Brett either. Cork taint, technically known as 2,4,6-trichloranisole or TCA, occurs when the cork in a bottle has somehow been infected and is renowned for leaving wines with a musty or moldy smell. This is why a waiter will offer the host of the table a small sample of the wine to make sure it isn’t “corked” before pouring it for the guests.
Yet there are some wine drinkers that perceive the slight “corkiness” in a wine as an enticing secondary characteristic from the oak and find it pleasurable. Many are rather sensitive to this flaw and will deem a wine unacceptable at the first hint of TCA. But that doesn’t mean the end consumer will not enjoy the wine if the flaw is ever so faint.
So yes, there is certainly a line where a wine goes from slightly flawed to spoiled. But where it lies is supremely determined by the individual wine drinker that is tasting the wine.