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Jun 14, 2012 01:53 PM

2007 Austrian Riesling - what should it taste like?

I opened a bottle of Nicolaihof Wachau riesling a few days ago. It smelled fine, but the taste was undrinkable to me. At first I thought "vinegar"... but that wasn't exactly it. Kerosine, maybe? I put a vacuvin in it, stuck in the fridge and planned to take it back to the wine store, see if they wanted to taste it, and ask for a refund. I've gotten bad bottles there before, especially anything with the least bit of age.

But a moment ago I read that "petrol" is common in aged rieslings. Is 2007 "aged"? Should it really be so strong ? I seriously would pour this down the drain, i wouldn't even cook with something that tasted like this. Am I going to make an ass of myself if I take it back?


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  1. 2007 seems quite young to already have gotten to the petrol stage - doesn't necessarily mean it's a flaw though. Did the cork look OK? Any signs of oxidation (darker yellow color etc.)

    6 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      cork looked normal, but it was pretty yellow, now that you mention it.

      1. re: danna

        If it is notably a deep yellow, I would take it back and say I think this is oxidized - it's a dark color and tastes very off. If you got it from a reputable wine store, and you bought it recently and/or stored it properly, they should take it back (at least in CA).

        1. re: goldangl95

          Thanks to both responders. I went ahead and took the bottle with me to the wine store last night. I didn't ask for a refund but just asked the owner to taste and tell me if that's what one refers to as "petrol". (of course, his immediate question when he saw me standing there unhappy with a bottle of Riesling was "were you shocked when it wasn't sweet?")

          Yes, indeed, he says, petrol..and a desirable trait. He gave me a taste of a Riesling opened behind the wine bar and asked if I tasted the same objectionable note. No...not at all, but it was also sweet. He said that currently he didn't have anything that was a "lighter style" but also dry to sell me, but he advised in the future I buy lower priced Riesling if I want to avoid "petrol". The bottle in questions was about $35.

          To the question of color, side by side there was a big diff between my bottle and the sweetish Riesling he poured me, but I would not say that mine was a deep yellow. As for the aroma vs. taste question...beats me. I'm a neophyte, I can't say whether I didn't sniff sufficiently or what. Although I protested a bit, the store owner "traded" me...the two bottles I picked up were approx the cost of the Riesling and he said he liked it would drink it that evening.

          Here's what the accountant in me found interesting. I proffered my credit card to pay for the two new bottles, he took it and then stared at the computer for awhile, and then announced that I bought the Riesling in January, rang up the sale, but didn't put it on my card. I suppose he rang it up to keep the inventory control correct, but I almost wonder if he wasn't curious how long the bottle might have been in my house. That's quite an impressive inventory system if he can tell when I bought a specific bottle just from my cc.

          1. re: danna

            This interaction seems very strange to me. It is patently untrue that an expensive riesling from the 2007 vintage should be reaking of petrol and taste patently off. There are three main reasons it could have gotten that way:

            1. You were sold a faulty bottle
            2. You stored it improperly, it got too hot one day etc.
            3. This wine is just really really bad/the winemaker embraces the taste of petrol to an offensive degree

            Based on cellartracker, I would say it isn't the third. But for the owner of the wine shop to pretend that ALL expensive rieslings taste and smell like this in just 5 years after the vintage seems strange to me. Slight whiffs of petrol may be occurring at this stage with some wines. And to be very very clear, within two years of the vintage - most expensive rieslings have beautiful floral, fruit, and mineral notes and no petrol whatsoever.

            1. re: goldangl95

              It could be that the 2007 vintage is more prone to Petrol notes than other vintages due to climate. But anyone should be able to smell it first.

              1. re: goldangl95

                on #2: I have an underground cellar that has a pretty stable temp, so I hope it's not a storage issue.

      2. A Petrol note is an AROMA, not a taste. If it "smelled fine" but tasted off enough to think of vinegar or kerosine, then it is not a petrol note.

        5 Replies
        1. re: sedimental

          Huh. So I like my rieslings young, and I rarely try them at the petrol stage. But, I have definitely felt with the few aged rieslings that I wasn't just smelling petrol I was tasting petrol. Is that simply because the petrol nose was so strong that I thought I tasted it?

          1. re: goldangl95

            Yes, sometimes if something smells like X...it can kind of "taste" like X too. In the case of TDN in Riesling, it is *always* the smell that comes first. I have never heard of NOT smelling petrol and only tasting it.

            I think danna's wine store person is full of it, or danna just couldn't smell it...but that is very unusual. Most of us have no problem smelling Petrol and of course - no one would like the *taste* of Petrol. Rieslings that have a slight Petrol nose from age, typically have a "wet mineral" and fruit taste. If we smell slight petrol and taste wet mineral...we kind of get an interesting overall experience of having a Petrol characteristic. But it should never taste *remotely* like gasoline or kerosine.

            1. re: sedimental

              Slightly OT, but I quit drinking Grey Goose a decade or so ago after getting a bottle that definitely tasted of petroleum product.

              1. re: sedimental


                I particularly relate to your "diesel and ass" tasting note ;-)

                1. re: danna

                  Maybe I missed my calling as a wine reviewer :)

          2. Reminds me of Robert Parker's list of The Great Lies in the Wine World, one of which is "It's supposed to taste like that."