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Jan 14, 2007 01:18 AM

Turpentine flavor??

My husband and I have been drinking wine fairly regularly for several years now, but neither of us are afficiandos by any means. We tend to drink what tastes good to us and not worry about the rest. I really like French red wines and Italian red wines of all different varieties, however whenever I try to drink an American red wine of any variety and from any state it always smells like turpentine to me and tastes like what I would imagine turpentine would taste like. The wines that have had the strongest turpentine smell also felt oily in my mouth. I have noticed that the flavor seems to go away when I drink them with red meat. Also, the small local wineries that we have visited, their red wines have a hint of the flavor, but it is much more tolerable than what we have tried to buy in the store. I have also noticed this flavor in the few wines from Chile that we have tried. Does anyone have any idea what the difference would be between the American and European wines that I might be reacting to? I asked in a wine shop once the guy was real unsure, but suggested it might have something to do with the barrels the wine was aged in. Right we now we pretty much stick to French or Italian wines and I doubt that figuring out what the difference is will change my dislike for it, but I'm just really curious.

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  1. Hmm , that's a tough one.
    Let's try this: let's assume "turpentine" means "high alcohol level", say in the 14.5%+ range.
    If that's the case, a high alcohol european should also smell turpentine-ish to you.
    Please try this experiment: buy a young (can be cheap, but authentic, made in Portugal) port.
    Can you smell the "turpentine" ?

    1 Reply
    1. re: RicRios

      I will give it a try and report back.

    2. Another thing you can always try doing is DECANTING the wine, especially a big red...

      Give it a "hard pour" directly hitting the bottom of the decanter and swirl it some... this can help "blow off" some foul back-notes and aromas. Not guaranteed, but well worth a try.

      1. If all American red wines taste like turpentine, not to be insulting, but it sounds like a taste perception issue. If that is the case, stick to the wines that are French, Italian, Spanish, Australian, etc. Why waste your money with something that is clearly not a flaw in the wine but an issue with your tastebuds. I would also propose blind tasting 4-5 wines that include 1 or 2 American wines to see if this is true when you do not know the origin prior to tasting. Try to make the sampling contain similar type (varietal) wines so there should be some similarities.

        1. It's really odd but my wife says the same thing about some wines. She describes it as a pesticide flavor. I can smell it a little when she brings it up but it doesn't really affect me. One I especially remember was a fairly expensive, big, fruity, special-vineyard zin so it could be alcohol, but another was a Chianti I think. Normally she really enjoys all wines.

          1. Could be heavy oak, high alcohol, a distaste for American (rather than French oak), or a combination of those factors.

            To check, look for one wine with 12-13% alcohol and a lot of new French oak, a second with 12-13% alcohol and a lot of new American oak, and a third with 15% alcohol and no oak. It's hard to find oaky wines with less than 14% alcohol these days; French and South African might be your best bets.

            The only wines I've had that really taste like turpentine are retsina and a few Greek white wines made or aged in pine barrels.