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I don't have much theoretical knowledge about wine, but I like the taste. So I often get a random bottle from the wide selection at the supermarket, avoiding only the bottom line of TetraPack wine. I have noticed a few trends (e.g. I don't like Chillean wine), but it is still mostly a hit-and-miss. One of the "bah" moments I have had several times recently was fizzy wine.

I don't mean wine sold as sparkly, such as champagne or prosecco. I mean bottles which look like normal wine, which are closed with a normal cork instead of a pressure-containing plug, but on opening they turn out to have a special kind of carbonation. Not the big, rising bubbles found in soft drinks, but small bubbles which are sometimes not even visible in the glass. Sometimes they are visible, but they stand there, instead of rising. When I drink the wine, the carbonation is noticeable from the slight bite.

I don't like carbonation. It not only makes the drink more acidic (and gives it a very unpleasant soda taste when there is not enough taste to cover it, such as in sparkly water), but the physical sensation distracts from the taste. I can tolerate it in soft drinks (if I have to drink one at all), but I have higher expectations of wine.

I looked at the bottles of carbonated wine I've had, but the labels don't seem to contain an indication of whether the wine is fizzy or not. I have seen it in red and white wines, cheap and expensive ones, local and important ones, without any pattern. Am I missing some important clue? Is it printed somewhere where I don't think to look? Or is it specific for certain grape cultivars? For certain regions? How do I learn to recognize the fizziness of a wine in a closed dark bottle sitting on a shelf?

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Buy better wine. Fizziness only seems to appear in very cheap stuff, in my experience. –  yossarian May 28 '12 at 16:24
    
The totality of the above posts is rather inconclusive. I'm getting to the last of some homemade 2009 Shiraz-Merlot and it is getting distinctly fizzy and acidic on opening. Shaking it up releases gas and after breathing it tastes OK, but maybe not as good as it did a year ago. No preservatives may be a factor, and that also causes it to oxidize in the bottle pretty quick even under partial vacuum. For me it's not a problem, but I gave away a lot of bottles to friends who might not have opened them yet. –  user17074 Mar 3 '13 at 9:17
    
Yossarian is over-simplifying: Various amounts of dissolved CO2 are often intentionally included as part of the wine-making process. When you have a lot of dissolved CO2, you have a 'sparkling wine'. If you have only the tiniest bit, you often have only the faint 'bite' of the extra acid. In between are the 'frizzante' styles (other languages have other names) - a light fizz. Regardless, if the CO2 is there on purpose, it can be very pleasant and add to the taste and complexity of the wine. Of course, carbonation can also indicate faults, so there's definitely such a thing as 'bad fizz'. –  Beejamin Mar 5 '13 at 3:26
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

There are a couple of reasons why a wine would be slightly fizzy:

  1. Maltreatment: wine which has been stored in a hot place will often be slight fizzy, as well as having a "sour cider" taste. This wine is ruined, throw it out.
  2. Varietal: in addition to Champaigne/Prosecco/Cava,several other wine varietals are deliberately slightly fizzy, such as Lambrusco and some Vino Verde. They may not be labeled as fizzy because it's assumed you'd know from the varietal.

I'm going to have to contradict BaffledCook here: by the time a regular non-sweet wine is in the bottle, it should not have residual sugar or fizzyness, even if it's too young to drink. For standard wines, all sugar is converted in primary fermentation, and certainly none would make it through barrel-aging. So if you get a chardonnay or pinot grigio or merlot, and it's slightly fizzy, it's ruined and you should take it back to the market and exchange it.

EDIT: see discussion in comments.

SECOND EDIT: I went out and bought a 2011 white wine, and darned if BaffledCook isn't right. Very young, but otherwise good, wines can have a slight effervesence. So combine his answer and mine for 3 reasons why a wine would be slightly fizzy. Mind you, you shouldn't be drinking 2011 wines yet ... store them for a year ... but if you do, there it is.

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I've just updated my answer. –  BaffledCook May 29 '12 at 8:37
    
BaffledCook: noted. I've never had that experience with a wine which wasn't bad or ruined, but then I don't generally open wines with less than one year in the bottle, except beaujolais nouveau and vino verde. –  FuzzyChef May 30 '12 at 2:21
    
With a beaujolais you might get it. I love those wines. A petty we don't often get them. –  BaffledCook May 30 '12 at 13:54
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Eh, most beaujolais nouveau which makes it to the USA these days is cheap swill. Vino verde, on the other hand, is a lovely table wine for rich seafood dishes, like cracked crab. And so affordable! –  FuzzyChef May 31 '12 at 4:27
    
I live in Spain, so getting a good beaujolais is possible albeit expensive compared to Spanish young table wines. I didn't mention I had a bad experience once with Vino Verde. Which vino verde do you get? We have some delicious verdeja wines here from Rueda. –  BaffledCook May 31 '12 at 8:04
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I have to disagree with most of the comments here. I regularly buy older wines in the 20 to 25 dollar range. Rioja, Chiante, Cabs, always XD and of high quality. These wines always have a certain amount of carbonation coming out of the bottle. A bit of breathing reduces it, but it doesn't go away completely. Now I am making my own wine and just tried a glass after 2 months of oak aging. It is getting very good, but it's also very flat. I'm wondering if its a PH thing? To me it's missing that slight fizz that good dry wines have coming out of the bottle. A completely flat wine doesn't seem to have any life to it. The slight fizz activates the taste buds. The flat wine is very smoothe though.

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Although this is a good observation/opinion, it doesn't really answer the OP's question. –  Jay Feb 25 '13 at 5:03
    
How old do you mean by 'older'? For good dry reds like you're describing, I've never had or heard of any carbonation in the bottle - there shouldn't be any products to ferment at the point of bottling. –  Beejamin Mar 5 '13 at 3:34
    
The pH of wine definitely contributes to the structure and taste - reds are often described as having 'good acid', and many wineries will acidify their red wines to improve taste and (whether you approve of that or not is another issue!). Either way, natural acid and carbonation are distinct things: Good acids are things like malic, tartaric and lactic acid. Carbonic acid is what you get from dissolved CO2 - it has a distinct 'salt/soda' taste. –  Beejamin Mar 5 '13 at 3:36
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You could check whether a wine is carbonated which should be indicated on the label (it's one of the processes to produce wine).

If it's not indicated on the label, then it's normally a young wine. The way to get rid of the off flavour is very simple: wait! A glass of evil smelling, lightly carbonated, wine can become a very nice drink if left to breathe.

You can see the carbonation in a glass (not in the shop), if you see some tiny bubbles at the rim. Once you see these bubbles, you can leave the bottle open for about half an hour to let it breathe.

Young wine is this year minus one. So, we are living in 2012 and a young wine should be labelled 2011. It would be very surprising to see a 2010 wine with carbonation.

The reason you get carbonation in young wines is that they are bottled while the sugar hasn't been completely consumed yet. It's not considered a defect of the bottle, as it will disappear with time. You can check that out by yourself, buying a number of bottles and opening one each month. Maybe the first two or three will have carbonation, and the rest will be fine.

Edit: This is called Spritzy.

Very slight sensation of carbonation, most common in very young wines and can be considered a minor flaw.

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