jamie goode's wine blog: Reductive Viognier and a nice Syrah

Monday, September 03, 2007

Reductive Viognier and a nice Syrah

Two wines tonight, both of interest.

Yalumba's Eden Valley Viognier 2005 had the potential to be an excellent wine. That it is merely good, is, I suspect, down to the closure - in this case a tin-lined screwcap. The luscious, rich, complex peachy fruit that typifies many top Viogniers, here enhanced by ageing in old French oak, is hidden behind the dominant theme of this wine: some intense, almost pungent struck match reduction character. In the absence of chemical analysis this is an educated guess, but I reckon the low redox environment generated by this almost hermetic seal has led to a shift in the sulfur chemistry such that a clean wine at bottling has turned reductive. If this was a rich Chardonnay, the reduction might have been complexing. But here it doesn't work: it masks the fruit.

Second wine is Laurent Miquel's Nord Sud Syrah 2004, which at 6.99 in Tesco is agood buy, with its ripe, concentrated, meaty/spicy fruit. It's quite perfumed, and has a sane alcohol level of 13.5%. Very stylish winemaking for a humble Vin de Pays d'Oc.

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At 1:32 PM, Blogger Edward said...

I often think of struck match as just the sulphur dioxide, which I don't mind. Reduction often has a different smell - rubbery, cabbage. . .

Yalumba are one of the old hands / pioneers / trailblazers when it comes to screwcaps, so it would be odd for them to make a hash of the closure.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger David McDuff said...

Isn't it fair to say that reduction is a fault in any wine? I'm not sure how it is that reduction is bad in Viognier but might be "complexing" in a Chardonnay. Also, I think it's just as likely if not more so that reduction was already present at bottling and is a side effect of winemaking practices rather than an in-the-bottle fault caused by a screwcap.

At 9:38 PM, Blogger Paul Tudor said...


I can not agree with you on this one - and I also find it hard to follow your logic. There are innumerable wines that show 'reductive' characters and modern winemaking practices if anything have created a greater propensity for reductivity across a range of wine styles. Then there are other wines were the reduced elements may be part of the wine's structure and style (think Muscadet, RD Champagne etc etc etc).
Yes, excessive reduction is extremely unpleasant, but reduction in small doses is like brett in small doses, some people find it attractive, others don't. I wish that wine buyers shared your view, because then that might bring down the price of the glorious white burgundies that I would like (but sadly can not afford) to drink!
Here in New Zealand, the reduction issue is a fairly serious one. The move to screwcaps in 2001 was driven largely by problems of sporadic (or random) oxidation on our drink young, fresh wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc. However the Sauvignon Blanc research project currently underway here has indentified two crucial thiols that 'mark' Sauvignon and especially our Sauvignon as distinctive. These thiols are both sulphur compounds, so we have a conundrum as to how to treat the wines before going into bottle. On the one hand, we want freshness, on the other we can not strip out all the sulphur compounds...
This is not the end of the story, thankfully. There is another mystery compound in NZ Sauvignon, which is odourless prior to ferment, but which may well not be sulphur based. So here's hoping.Also I understand that there will be a range of screwcap liners available soon. Problem is, there are only two major suppliers of liner (one supplier of the PVDC coating only) - there needs to be more competition in this area.

At 10:15 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

A lot of people are feeling their way with closures. I think it's much more likely that wines like this were bottled clean and then developed reductive characters in bottle, than they were bottled with reduction. I'm not blaming tin-lined screwcaps for reduction; just pointing out that they have a tendency to exaggerate any sulfur compound issues (often covert) at bottling.

Paul's right. Reduction is a facet of some very expensive wines. It's not always a bad thing.


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