Wines have been an integral part of how we socialise and celebrate for thousands of years and the ritual of opening the bottle is all part of the pleasure.

But how disappointing if you pop the cork and it smells musty or you pour the wine into the glass and it’s a funny colour.

Not only do you lose the moment, but you suddenly have to rely on your senses and the five S’s of tasting… see, swirl, sniff, sip and savour.

[Read more: Think you know your wines? Find out in our wine quiz]

We all love to savour, but here’s how to be a wine geek and know when to spit…

Self storage

Wines should be stored in a cool, dark place away from sunlight. They don’t like heat and the ideal conditions for storage are 12 or 13 degrees centigrade. If the temperature fluctuates (summer and winter, hot or cold) it can cause a wine to oxidise and the worst place to store your prize bottle is the kitchen.

A real corker

When a wine is ‘corked’ it means the wine has been contaminated by bacteria in the cork and tainted the wine, usually making it smell mouldy. Pour it away and try a screw cap next time. The closure of choice for many winemakers, most everyday drinking wines have a screw cap.


If you have a nose for the finer things in life, you’ll appreciate the attractive notes of fruit or other aromatics such as hay or fresh herbs. If it smells like vinegar or mouldy, then it’s gone off.

[Related story: 7 wines we bet you're pronouncing wrong]

Colour code

A glass of red wine should fall into the spectrum of ruby, garnet, violet or inky, but never brown. If it has a brownish hue, then it’s past its prime. A glass of white can be pale, bright or straw yellow, but if it’s only a year or two old and a deep amber, take note. It may be oxidized and undrinkable.

Drinking window

Vintage matters. Reds such as a Bordeaux will improve with age but a fresh, vibrant white such as a New Zealand sauvignon blanc is designed to drink young. A vintage champagne can age for many years, but a fun and fruity prosecco should be drunk within its first year. The same applies to rose wines.

When did you last pour a bottle of wine down the sink? Tell us in the comments below