Wine Talk

Snooth User: lamarr

Virginia Wines and Damp Gym Bags

Posted by lamarr, Apr 12, 2009.

Currently studying in Virginia, I've had the pleasure of vineyard hopping in the Shenandoah Valley. While eager to support my local economy and join the ranks of Virginia wine lovers, I have noticed something rather unpleasant about nearly all the Virginia reds I've tasted. Every one of them smells of damp gym bags. I kid you not. I feel like I'm constantly drinking corked wine.

At one tasting room, I asked the server about it. He replied that they [VA wines] do have a distinct odor to them, possibly emanating from the clay in the soil. Very well. However, should this musty, old library, wet clothes left to fester for three days nose be simply an expression of Virginia terrior, then I think I may have to take my palate elsewhere.

Maybe I've just had a miraculously long series of bad experiences, or perhaps the wineries that I've visited have been subpar. I keep trying to embrace VA wine, but this pungent odor stands in my way. Has anyone else had this experience?


Reply by Gingerossa, Apr 12, 2009.

lamarr; I experienced the same unpleasant damp gym bag odor while tasting at a few different vineyards in VA too, and was hoping it wouldn't be this way everywhere. But don't give up, I have also found some that are amazing and I continue to make the drive back (or have them shipped) since many are hard to find in local stores. One of my favorites is Ingelside Vineyards in Oak Grove Great casual atmoshphere, with fabulous wines (try their black & gold lables) and they always have some exciting event/entertainment going on - probally a bit of a drive from your location, but it might make for a nice weekend get away. You might be able to find in a local store too. I've not been to the winery, but while visiting friends in Williamsburg (not the winery) last Spring we all enjoyed a wonderful 2005 Monticello Meritage from Jefferson Vineyards (Charlottesville) - I have tried to let some of the VA wines breathe longer hoping the aroma would dissipate...but for some it is there to stay.

Reply by ChipDWood, Apr 14, 2009.

"Maybe I've just had a miraculously long series of bad experiences, or perhaps the wineries that I've visited have been subpar. I keep trying to embrace VA wine, but this pungent odor stands in my way. Has anyone else had this experience?"

Among the cornucopia of flavors that I enjoy, I can't say "damp gym bag" is one that I have ever embraced, nor pursued.

I'm a fan and often "embiber" of Virginia wines, and while some have been "less than awesome"- I can't think of a string of any of the reds I've tried as resembling that of a used gym bag. Which makes me think you must have run into a bad run of some sort. TRUST ME: Not all like that, and nor should they be.

Some of the native, indigenous grapes (see: Concord, Catawba, and other "Vitis Lambrusca" varietals) have the reputation of being described as "foxy", or musky. In such a case, you may have come across one of the reasons such vines have never and WILL never make their way to the world market as wines.

There's world class wine there, however, and vines to match, that have nothing at all similar to previously mentioned "bags of gym". Let me know if you come across something again in the future, so I myself can stay far away.

Trust me; "Old Gym" bag is not a regional characteristic of the fair Commonwealth. Could be a lot of things, including the winery, retail shop, or a simple matter of a bad case, though it sounds like your string goes beyond that kind of easy write-off.

Either way; keep me posted. I'm intrigued.

Reply by Imperial210, Aug 11, 2009.

Veritas Merlot is one of the best VA reds I've tasted. I totally know what you mean about the unique taste of most VA reds, but don't give up! I haven't, but it is hard to find good VA red wine. VA whites on the other hand are much more approachable.

Reply by penguinoid, Aug 12, 2009.

A possibly interesting parallel - 'sweaty saddle' smells/flavours used to be common in Hunter Valley (Australian) shirazes. Again, at the time a lot of wine producers thought that this was expressive of the particular terroir there (especially the basaltic soils), now this character tends to be dismissed as brettanomyces-induced.

Reply by vawineaux, Apr 17, 2010.

Lamarr, I was drinking wine from Kluge last week and I promise you there was no "gym bag odor" to speak of. That musty smell is sometimes the way God intended for that particular grape to smell like(Viognier, anyone?) and sometimes it's a sign of trouble ahead i.e. a corked bottle. The pont is, you'll just have to keep trying until something sticks. Surprisingly enough, VA makes some pretty awesome stuff. I'm gonna try some Chatham wines in a week so if they smell good, I'll let you know :)

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