Is Continuous Fermentation Upon Opening Wine Flaw Actually Possible?


I had a very unusual experience with a flawed wine today I opened for brunch. It was an Aussie stickie which are of course always notorious for lots of residual sugar that tasted very off and alcoholic, but not exactly corked or oxidized. I’ve had both corked and oxidized wine before and this tasted nothing like either of those flaws. The wine was bitter and a bit yeasty and had no sweetness at all.

So I took a one stop subway ride to the Bayview Village LCBO and spoke to a product consultant. I used a cork T-stopper and wrapped the bottle in a large Ziploc bag which then went into a standard recycled paper liquor and wine bag for transportation.

The consultant took a sniff and then took a close look and noticed that tiny bubbles were rising up continually in the wine. At first I thought it was because of the transport but then we put it on the counter and let it be perfectly still for a couple of minutes and it was still bubbling up. It was not doing this when I first opened it up. We also compared it to another unopened bottle and noticed that the color of mine was a bit off and darker when viewing them side by side.

Then I finally pieced it all together: no sweetness + bitter yeasty taste + lots of alcohol + gas bubbles rising through the wine = FERMENTATION! [shock.gif]

I checked the bottle and there wasn’t any leftover lees in there that I could detect that might still be alive but the idea of the wine still fermenting itself does kind of explain everything.

This said, my question is… is this even possible as a flaw in a wine? It strikes me as not very possible, but it’s the only explanation I can think of. You guys and gals have way more experience, has this ever happened in a wine before to you? Or is this just my imagination running wild?

FWIW, this story does have a happy ending: I was given full credit for the flawed wine which I then used to purchase the very last two bottles of in the store of the Jose Maria Da Fonseca and Van Zeller 2003 Vintage Port. [cheers.gif]

Happens a lot, especially with stickies.

That’s a secondary fermentation in bottle. The bubbles are produced from trapped CO2 which is a result of fermentation. That’s how the bubbles get into Champagne. As Roberto says, it’s not uncommon in wines with some RS, or wines that did not finish malolactic fermentation, then were not properly stabilized.

Did the wine smell particularly foul? If so, then it’s bacterial fermentation and not a secondary yeast ferment. Definitely a flaw.

Definitely not good. As stated could be a few different things making those bubbles in there. If the ETOH on the label listed over 15% or so I would guess is not yest but bacteria maybe even ML. Not as uncommon as one might think with the stickies. The often high pH’s preclude you from being able to hold enough free so2 in the wine to keep things from moving along.

Thanks for the info, everyone. Good to know it wasn’t just my imagination. The thing that was most confusing to me once I realized some kind of fermentation was going on was not seeing an immediately obvious and visible cause of the flaw. No worries, it’s all history now. Moral of the story: always keep your purchase receipts! :slight_smile:

To answer the other questions, the bottle did not smell particularly foul upon opening i.e. no rotten smell or TCA smell. Strong alcohol right away on the nose, though.