I frequently notice a very specific smell/taste in wine. I find it rather unpleasant, so I presume it is a known commonly occurring wine defect (I notice it probably at least 30% of the time). The trouble is, I don't know what it's called, so it's difficult to complain about it or send a bottle back because of it. I know it sounds silly, but the taste I'm referring to reminds me exactly of easter egg dye, though it's not exactly a vinegar taste. It often becomes more pronounced as the wine sits out in the glass. I've tried reading up on common wine defects, but none seem to really match. Does anyone have any idea what the taste is I'm referring to?

2 Answers 2


Probably what you are smelling is a combination of oxidized wine, ethyl acetate and acetic acid. Oxidized wine smells like sherry and the volatile acidity smells exactly like you described it. Vinegar. Ethyl Acetate smells like nail polish remover.

What happens when you leave wine out, the metabisulfites break down and can't prevent oxidation anymore and also will allow the acetobacter bacteria to do it's thing, which is to convert alcohol into vinegar.

  • Does heat have anything to do with it? My local wine store cautions against leaving wine in a hot vehicle or else risk creating expensive vinegar.
    – Eric S
    Commented Feb 24, 2020 at 20:07
  • You can heat damage wine, but it won't turn to vinegar that quickly unless exposed to air. Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 15:55

What is the technical term for the “vinegar/easter egg dye” smell in some wines?

The technical term for smell is odour.

An odor (American English) or odour (British English; see spelling differences) is caused by one or more volatilized chemical compounds that are generally found in low concentrations that humans and animals can perceive by their sense of smell. An odor is also called a "smell" or a "scent", which can refer to either a pleasant or an unpleasant odor.

While "scent" can refer to pleasant and unpleasant odors, the terms "scent", "aroma", and "fragrance" are usually reserved for pleasant-smelling odors and are frequently used in the food and cosmetic industry to describe floral scents or to refer to perfumes.

In the United Kingdom and other Commonweath, English-speaking nations, "odour" refers to scents in general – without positive or negative connotations; but in the United States, and for many non-native English speakers around the world, "odor" generally has a negative connotation as a synonym for "stink".1 An unpleasant odor can also be described as "reeking" or called a "malodor", "stench", "pong", or "stink".

Taste is simply the gustatory perception of flavours while eating or drinking foods.

Taste, gustatory perception, or gustation is one of the five traditional senses which belongs to the gustatory system.

Taste in the gustatory system allows humans to distinguish between safe and harmful food, and to gauge foods’ nutritional value. Digestive enzymes in saliva begin to dissolve food into base chemicals that are washed over the papillae and detected as tastes by the taste buds. The tongue is covered with thousands of small bumps called papillae, which are visible to the naked eye. Within each papilla are hundreds of taste buds.3 The exception to this are the filiform papillae that do not contain taste buds. There are between 2000 and 50004 taste buds that are located on the back and front of the tongue. Others are located on the roof, sides and back of the mouth, and in the throat. Each taste bud contains 50 to 100 taste receptor cells.

Bitter foods are generally found unpleasant, while sour, salty, sweet, and umami tasting foods generally provide a pleasurable sensation. The five specific tastes received by taste receptors are saltiness, sweetness, bitterness, sourness, and savoriness, often known by its Japanese term "umami" which translates to ‘deliciousness’. As of the early twentieth century, Western physiologists and psychologists believed there were four basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness. At that time, savoriness was not identified, but now a large number of authorities recognize it as the fifth taste.

To say that wine tastes or smell like vinegar or Easter Egg dye is a way of describing the odour or our gustatory perception of how bad wine smell or tastes.

I've found cheap wines to have a higher likelihood of tasting like vinegar Easter egg dye. - Hacker News

Why this is to be occurring in a particular wine is due to various possible reasons. What gives wine a particular gives off a bad smell or has a particular bad taste may be caused as the examples below demonstrates:

  • Too much air contact to the wine: oxidation
  • Bacteria can turn your wine into an odd smelling juice at times.

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