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Let's talk wine flaws - introducing light strike

Cork taint may be the most common, well-known and easy to recognise wine fault. But how about light strike, one that may be less well-known, but likely the most common flaw of all....

Although there's been little talk about it until recent years, more and more is beginning to be known about light strike, a fault that can occur in as little as 60 minutes when a clear glass bottle of wine is exposed to bright sun light or UV light. 

Ever spotted champagne bottled like Louis Roederer's Cristal champagne wrapped in orange cellophane? It's because it's bottled in clear glass, yet that handy orange cellophane filters 98% of harmful light. In a similar way, ever spotted a rose like our very own Mun rose produced by La Calcinara bottled in non-clear glass, perhaps amber or green? It's because these two colours provide good protection, with amber the best of all.

Evidence is so far showing that it most frequently happens in delicate whites and sparkling, where it has been most commonly observed, as well as rose, resulting in wines with dull flavours, or at worst, smelling and tasting of rotten cabbage, eggs or wet wool. Sounds fun eh!

The science behind it you may ask? The flaw seems to be brought on when light reacts with the naturally occurring compound riboflavin in the wine which can result in sulphur-containing amino acids oxidising, thus producing unpleasant sulphur compounds. And yup, you read that right earlier - it can happen in as little as 60 minutes of exposure, whether it's a bottle placed by a window, a bottle on a shelf under artificial lights or at a picnic. And those unpleasant results are irreversible....

So then, what to do? The good news is red wines seem to come with some protection already due to their tannins, so that's one less thing to worry about! As well as being wary of the temperature of storage, also consider keeping your wine in the darkest corner of your house too, away from natural or artificial light, or keep those clear bottles covered.


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