Effects of Oxidation on Wine

Oxidation’s Impact on Wine

It’s a common practice in the world of winemaking to use a diverse array of terms to illustrate the myriad reactions and processes affecting wines as they transition from vineyard to bottle. The complexity inherent in fine wine warrants this breadth of descriptors.

One such critical term is “oxidation,” denoting the interaction of oxygen with grapes, juice, and bottled wine. While oxidation occurs naturally during field harvesting and continues, albeit to a lesser extent, throughout processing, aging, and bottling, excessive exposure to oxygen can swiftly lead to wine spoilage. To circumvent detrimental outcomes, winemakers are diligent in controlling oxygen exposure.

When grapes and their juice encounter oxygen, the aromatic profile undergoes a transformation. A measured exposure to oxygen can yield more robust, nuanced flavors that enhance the wine’s appeal and overall quality. However, excessive exposure has the contrary effect, eradicating the intricate flavors and dampening both aroma and taste. This degradation marks the point where the wine is deemed “oxidized.”

In the case of red wine, the color often shifts toward an orangey-brown or russet hue, while white wine tends to adopt a yellowish-brown tone.

Oxidized wines undergo a breakdown in their flavors and aromas, often emitting bitter, nutty, toffee, or overripe apple scents. In severely oxidized wine, discernible vinegar-like harshness emerges. The rich fruit notes and intricate complexities typically found in well-preserved wines are noticeably absent.