Interview Michel Chapoutier: « Young Riesling wines should not have a dominant petrol aroma »

Interview Michel chapoutier: You recently said to UK magazine Decanter: The ‘petrol’ characteristics in Riesling are undesirable and constitute a fault in the wine. Could you give more details?

Version française: Cliquez ici.

Michel Chapoutier: "We should perhaps begin by defining what is termed "petrol". One can observe an important gradation among the family of these aromas. Great Rieslings can have aromas with age that some consider from the hydrocarbon family. I would call it more often a "dominant mineral development" and more importantly would define it as aromas of chalk (the memory of the school with the smell of the brush used to erase the blackboard). And for these chalk aromas, typical of the great Alsace wines as Clos St Hune or the great Rieslings from Mosel and the Nahe, I find it degrading and reductive to characterize this minerality with petrol aromas. When I talk about petrol aromas in some Riesling wines (which some consumers love and regard as characteristic of the grape), I really mean this dominant hydrocarbon (neither chalk nor mineral) that can dominate the wine aromas in its youth . When this part takes a dominant role, we can absolutely say that we are facing a defect in the wine. In the past, when the winemaker did not have the technical means and knowledge to master the pressing and racking (probably a significant portion of these Riesling wines had a petrol character), this aroma could be considered characteristic or typical. But through technical advances, this dominant aroma can become a hint and petrol can become chalk and minerality."

What conclusion would you draw from this comment?

MC: "It is interesting to ask the following question: if some characteristic taste of some wines are historically typical from this wine, do they do part of its tradition and typicity? If these tastes are the result of instability or a bacterial degradation, should they be considered part of cultural heritage of this wine?When I taste a delicious Jura "Vin jaune", I actually taste a wine for which oxidation and ethanalisation has been domesticated. But here, the alleged defect was so unanimous that winemakers sought to master it, make it into a rule which is now undeniable. I would not consider hydrocarbon aromas in young Riesling wines in the same category. And it is the same problem for those aromas of leather in red wines, which too often merely illustrate a contamination of brettanomyces. The same applies to the aroma of "cooking water of peas" in sweet wines which insinuate that "grey rot" was perhaps a little too present in the middle of the "noble rot". The generation of my grandparents were fond of "hot" cheeses and rancid sausages. The methods of vinification evolve to be more and more accurate and therefore the taste is changing and some so called typicities tend to be marginalized. As I am primarily a gourmand consumer, passionate about wine, I can confirm and maintain my point of view. So yes to this touch of mineral and chalk in riesling wines when they start ageing. But I confirm that young riesling wines should not have a dominant petrol aroma. Thanks again to the Decanter team who helped to launch this discussion and after reading comments from all over the world, I understand that unlike Vin Jaune, we are very far from finding a consensus on this issue. If some, following my comment on this defect in young riesling wines, understood that I was talking about old riesling wines: it has never been the case. And to celebrate this great discussion, we ​​will open tonight a 1992 Clos Saint Hune with my wife... Cheers!."

(More wine news on www.vitabella.fr)