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Petrol smell in Riesling ‘a mistake’: Chapoutier

The ‘petrol’ characteristics in Riesling are undesirable and constitute a fault in the wine, Michel Chapoutier said today.

The renowned Rhone producer, showing his new range of Alsace wines at Decanter, said ‘Riesling should never smell of petrol. That is a result of a mistake during winemaking.’

Comparing the debate over petrol aromas in Riesling to the issue of brettanomyces, Chapoutier said It is absurd that ‘historical defects in wine should be accepted as part of the character of the wine’.

Chapoutier said that the petrol characteristic, which is often prized amongst Riesling aficionados, is a result of decomposition of the veins within the grape. These veins become more fragile as the grape matures.

The vital aspect of Riesling vinification is the gentlest of pressings, often taking 12 hours, Chapoutier said, so as to avoid breakdown of the vascular structure within the grape.

Chapoutier was showing seven wines: five Rieslings, a Pinot Gris and a Sylvaner, from a 5ha domaine in Bernardvillé that he runs as a joint venture with four friends, none of whom are wine professionals.

The wines – the range is called Schieferkopf (literally, slate topped) – are all 2009s and consist of a Pinot Gris and a Sylvaner, Riesling 2009, Alsace Grand Cru Wiebelsberg 2009, Alsace Grand Cru Kastelberg 2009, Alsace Lieu-Dit Buehl 2009 (Selection Parcellaire), and Alsace Lieu-Dit Fels 2009 (Selection Parcellaire).

As well as his Rhone properties Chapoutier has winemaking projects in Victoria, Australia – Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier in the Pyrenees, Jasper Hill, a joint venture with Ron Laughton in Heathcote and Giaconda in Beechworth – Roussillon and Portugal.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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