Ask Wine Wizard

Oxygen Ingression


John Bolles — Simi Valley, California asks,

I was careless, and let air get into a tank containing about 60 gallons (227 L) of Cabernet Sauvignon. It now has a slightly stale oxidized taste. Is there a way to recover the wine?

Don’t worry, it’s happened to the best of us! If you can, check your pH and your VA (volatile acidity) to try to get a handle on whether or not this air intrusion caused any chemistry-altering damage to the wine. What I mean is, sometimes when we have an oxygen incursion it can mean an increase in spoilage bacteria that can lead to high VAs, film yeasts, and other issues. For this reason, if you have the capability, I’d sterile filter this wine immediately to rule out the possibility of a high count of spoilage organisms in the wine. That being done, you can focus on some of the following approaches to try to “recover” the wine and nudge it back to where it was heading before it got a big oxygen shock. Get it topped, adjust pH (if needed), and add SO2: If you can filter your wine, do it as soon as you can to remove the possibility of microbial damage. Then, adjust the free SO2 up to a healthy zone, which for a filtered red wine like
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Response by Alison Crowe.