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Aug 29, 2011 03:14 PM

Dill Pickle Smell in Cabernet Franc

Recently I tasted a selection of wines from Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The nose of a few Cabernet Francs and one blend (which included Cab Franc, I think) had an assertive dill pickle note. I've found this only once before (in my limited experience) in a Marechal Foch from Nova Scotia. Can anyone explain this to me?

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  1. Each person reacts differently to cab franc, but I would primarily associate
    bell peppers or celery with the variety, rather than dill or pickle.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bclevy

      This hasn't been true of all Cab Franc I've tasted; just these from New England. It was striking that it was characteristic of all. I wondered if it was growing conditions, ripeness, etc.

      1. re: bclevy

        In many Cab Francs, I detect a touch of bell pepper (green), though not THAT much, and then grated black peppercorns.

        Have never had an New England Cab Franc, so there could be all sorts of flavors, and aromas.


      2. Not that terribly uncommon to find some vegetal or vegetable aromas in red wines and white wines. Including dill. I think most people just name the aroma as dill, but dill pickle could make sense as well. Some people attribute such aromas to the grape; other to oak.

        1. A knowledgeable friend in the wine industry says that volatile acidity (VA) smells like dill pickle juice to him. I've heard that several times actually.

          You can read more about pickle juice-volatile acidity here (the paragraph on ice wine, scroll down):

          and here:

          Certainly underripe grapes, pyrazines and American oak can contribute to the dill pickle-ness.

          2 Replies
          1. re: maria lorraine

            Traditionally styled Rioja (of which there is very little left) is aged for long periods in American oak which can impart a distinctive dill/dill pickle element. I love it. Try a Lopez de Heredia Vina Bosconia for a major hit of American oak, or a La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi for just a touch of the pickle.

            1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

              Yes, dill can come from American Oak. Dill pickle juice (the aroma of the brine/vinegar) is often VA.

          2. Under-ripe CF has a tendency towards green pepper/leafy/herbal notes; can be OK when held in balance, but otherwise not my thing. But dill flavors are also said to result from the use of cheap American oak barrels, which I might suspect in this case. Mind you I tasted a Pinot Noir that had strong dill notes; the suspect cause was the producer switching from commercial to ambient yeast (and no new American oak was anywhere to be found). So many variables come into play.

            1. My guess, too would be the oak in which the wine was aged. American oak can give off this characteristic.