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Like most other things isn't this mainly a question of degree and personal taste?

If tested most Rieslings and some other wines would show some TDN [the main part of the chemistry that gives wine a petroleum note although there are others] at some point in their evolution so it's a function of individual thresholds [20ppt has been quoted as a nominal perception level] which can vary enormously, as with TCA which is clearly a fault at any perceived level and Brett and VA etc.

Perhaps VA is a good comparison since it is likely that all wines have some VA and some, like Sauternes et al, have quite a lot and for them it is, at controlled levels, simply part of the overall aromatics and taste of the wine.

Equally clearly there will be a level at which it becomes a fault. That will differ for individuals for threshold and taste reasons but for VA at least there is a designated level at which authorities designate the wine as faulty.

To say that VA at any level is a fault would be to condemn all/most wines although to say that an excessive level of VA is a fault and due to faulty winemaking would be entirely reasonable.

AFAIK there is no such regulatory level for TDN but the same logic would seem fair although the genesis of TDN is not as well understood as that of e.g. VA and Brett. Nevertheless there are identified precursors and studies have indicated that climate and water stress are factors.

For most Riesling drinkers, particularly the great wines of Germany, petrol/kerosene aromas can be expected in wines of a certain age since TDN can increase with age although I have seen references to wines 'going through a petroleum phase' and coming out the other side later on.
However the characteristic is variable although pretty common.

While age generally appears to be a prerequisite for 'petroleum' to appear in cool climate Riesling there are early examples in warm/hot climate wines - and Australian judges have appeared to call 'fault' on their own wines when TDN is very noticeable in young wines.

Separately, without seeking to make a closure point, studies have shown that natural cork will absorb a significant part of any TDN present while screwcaps will leave all that is present in the wine.

So, IMO it doesn't seem unreasonable to suggest that in certain circumstances, e.g. high levels of TDN evident in a young wine, petroleum aromas in wine could be the result of faulty winemaking.

However to suggest that any level of 'petroleum' at any age signifies faulty winemaking is illogical and, reading more of Chapoutier's comments than were available in the Decanter article, I don't think that is what was being said although it might easily be the message that most took from it.

There will be super-sensitives and others who simply don't like the smell and taste that TDN imparts but IMO that seems like a simple matter of liking or disliking a wine because of its inherent, normal characteristics than faulty winemaking per se.
I think Nigel hit the essence. TDN, a complex naphthalene compound derived from naturally occurring grape chemicals, is a fault only when exceeding a threshold, and that threshold varies individually.
It is more analogous to pyrazines than Brettanomyces. Some people can't stand a hint of bell pepper or dill in a Cab, some consider it characteristic. Same with grassiness, or even cat pee, in a Sauv. Blanc.
Originally posted by Board-O:
Whether or not petrol characteristics are a flaw or not is immaterial to me. I enjoy Rieslings, but before they develop petrol characteristics. I know people who prize them as they age, people whose opinions I respect, but I prefer them young when the crisp grapey and green apple flavors predominate.

I don't know who you are or what you've done with Board-O, but give him back. There is no way Board-O would post something like that. Personal preference for a young wine over the established wisdom of the superior aged version? No way. Razz

FWIW, I agree with you about younger rieslings. I don't mind the petrol if it's not too strong, but now that I know it's 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene, I'm drinking up.
Originally posted by Board-O:
Hey, I think they're ready when they're young. I've tasted them at ages from recently bottled to over 40 years old. I don't hold them for long aging anymore, with the possible exception of a few bottles from a very large purchase.

I drink them at all ages too but tend to keep the few Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese I buy much longer than the Spatlese and Auslese which I drink from the start - particularly the Spatlese.

And they all have the added advantage [the latter two in their non-Trocken versions] of relatively low alcohol so one can be greedy on occasion without the usual penalty - although the BA and TBA are sippers rather than gluggers.

Great German wines were my first serious wine experiences in the mid 60s through an old Hallgarten rep who introduced me to the great estates with regular mixed cases. They were the first wines my then teetotal wife enjoyed but sadly she no longer enjoys Riesling.

However I am having great difficulty recalling a single occasion when the gentle whiff of 'petroleum' aromas in an aged German Riesling put me off drinking it. Of course taste is an individual thing and it can change considerably over time viz my wife's turn away from wines that were once the only ones she enjoyed.
Hmm - I just got thru tasting 2009 Riesling Spatlesen an hour ago as our monthly group tasting. Last week, tasted thru a few dozen at the annual German Riesling show. They had a few aged ones there too amd I'm completely in the drink-em-young camp. They change with age, but I always wonder why I haven't burned them younger when they have that great combo of acidity and fruit.

As far as the petrol/gasoline comments - I have no idea whether Chapoutier is correct or not, but I am not a fan of those either. I'll accept a bit as part of the character of Riesling, but when those are dominant, they harm, rather than help, the experience IMHO.

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