Wine Taint in California Pinot Noir

Posted by Keith Wallace

There’s no denying one of Pinot’s wine tasting hallmarks — and the reason many of us love it so — is its discernible funk on the nose.  Barnyard stank, dung, smokey bacon, etc., charm us by wrapping with rose petals and fresh ripe cherries to create a delicate and earthy headiness only the best pinots can achieve.  But what about a sniff of a wet ashtray, or even worse, smoke taint? 

California winemakers are battling to remove the odor in wines caused by severe forest fires every year during the growing season.  Some have spent the last year adding milk byproducts, fish bladder powder, and egg whites, along with other fining tricks, to eliminate the smokiness.  Is the adulteration justified? 

I wrote about the manipulation of wine using these very methods for the Daily Beast years ago, to the shock of many wine consumers (and the ire of some important players in the wine industry).  As this article points out, some people do not find the aroma offensive, while others liken it to a corked bottle.  My suggestion:  accept that wine is a human invention, with all that it entails.

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