Home News > December 2017 > SWA Faults Clinic with Annette Scarfe MW

Our latest SWA clinic, lead once again by the renowned Annette Scarfe MW, focused on the significance of faults when it comes to tasting and judging wines.

Scarfe explained to a handful of our 2018 senior judges, gathered at Vinoteca City, that although the basis of a fault is an error within a wine, they are, on occasion, intentionally produced and incorporated into a wine for a multitude of reasons.

Scarfe recalled how the predominance of faulty corks in the 1980s had led to producers in Australia and New Zealand turning to screwcaps. However, she noted a current resurgence in the use of corks due to technological advances making cork a more dependable closure. She also mentioned that when judging, it’s vital to note that every person has subjective thresholds and attachments to different tastes and smells, so it’s important to ‘knowing your own tolerance levels’.

The judges started with a controlled red and white to get a feel for what they would be judging, and as soon as they sampled the first faulty wine it was clear that Scarfe’s point of the intricacy of faults was well founded. Brett, the first fault, is used by some European winemakers to add complexity to wine, and also used as a key component in beer, despite its ‘Band Aid’ taste; yet other winemakers view it as completely negative fault. This further underlines that tasting faults in wine is entirely relative to our palate and autonomous taste.

Similarly, a later fault, oxidation, which Scarfe noted ‘tastes like sherry’, is arguably not the worst possible flavour. It highlighted that not all wine faults are immediately unappealing. In fact some serve a necessary role in developing a wine’s character.

Scarfe explained that reduction as a fault is also debated in Australia as many winemakers deliberately want to achieve its effects, despite it tasting of ‘rotten eggs’. Similarly, the nail varnish-like taste of volatile acidity is also sometimes used to add complexity to wine; while methoxypyrazine’s vegetal taste can often be a positive at low thresholds.

The Faults Clinic certainly emphasised to the judges that faulty wines are a complex, but nonetheless essential topic to be aware of when judging in wine competitions such as SWA. If you’d like to be involved with judging SWA 2018 please register your interest.