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Delhi Wine Club
Chapoutier Creates Controversy about Riesling

Posted: Wednesday, 11 May 2011 15:50

Chapoutier Creates Controversy about Riesling

May 11: Remark by the Rhone producer Michel Chapoutier yesterday that the petrol characteristics in Riesling are undesirable and constitute a fault in the wine, is sure to rake a controversy amongst the Riesling producers of centuries, especially in Germany, writes Subhash Arora who feels the remarks might well have been made to promote his Riesling from Alsace.

The well- known Rhone producer who is represented also in India  through FineWinesnMore is quoted by Decanter as saying, ‘Riesling should ever smell of petrol. That is a result of a mistake during winemaking.’ When showing his new range of Alsace wines at Decanter, said

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

Chapoutier claimed 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. He 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, reports Decanter.

Riesling is a grape variety that changes its characteristics totally in the bottle and after a few years. The top Riesling producers of Germany take pride in showing their older bottles when one visits their wineries. Ernie Loosen, owner of Dr. Loosen in Mosel will always open a special bottle of 15 years or more and each time the petrol flavour mesmerizes. The Riesling lovers in fact look for this characteristics in a good, matured Riesling.

At a recent tasting in Delhi organised at the residnce of the Ambassador in conjunction with Sommelier India, at least 3 of the 12 Rieslings had the typical, easily identifiable petrol flavours that had evolved over the last 3-5 yeas in the bottle-rather pleasant.

The producers of Mosel with centuries’ of family experience behind them may not take kindly to the statement and reactions would be expected. Perhaps, Alsace Rieslings do not have the capabilities of producing such flavours, they may argue.

Like Brett, which is a defect but many people like the presence of the ‘defect’ to some levels, Riesling has the characteristic which Chapoutier may describe as a defect but the Riesling lovers do find it enticing.

It will be interesting to see how heated the debate will be! It is unlikely that Chapoutier would be selling his Rieslings in India for a few years- not for not having the defect but Alsace Rieslings are not yet as popular as say, the Grenache and Syrah based Rhone reds.

Subhash Arora


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