Wine Talk

Snooth User: napagirl68

What do y'all think about this article re: sulfur fault?

Posted by napagirl68, May 11, 2014.

I had the misfortune of opening a bottle of Sauv Blanc that smelled like- well, to put it bluntly- rotten eggs and poop.  Horrible.   This is a new fault find for me, normally being of the cork taint predilection.  So, off to research I go.  I found the article below.  I am interested in hearing what you think about my specific issue and the article as well.

http://www.frogspad.ca/?p=75

Replies

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Reply by dvogler, May 11, 2014.

I've not had the pleasure of poop.  However, my buddy has poured a couple down the sink because they were off (reds).  Mercaptan (or methanethiol) is added to NG (er...I mean Natural Gas) to make it detectable by smell.  I'd sure hate to find that coming out of my wine glass.

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Reply by napagirl68, May 11, 2014.

This was the first, after prolly thousands of wines I have tasted, that I've encountered this.  It's horrible.

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Reply by dmcker, May 11, 2014.

So where was the SB from? Not NZ, by any chance?  ;-)

Good link, NG. Nice to know there are even more reasons for not liking Stelvins so much! 

Some quotes from the blog:

  • I’ve encountered a rash (no, I’m not allergic) of screwcapped wines with sulphur in the nose lately. I’ve been buying a bunch of the sale wines at the ANBL, some of which are screwcapped New Zealand and South African Sauvignon Blancs, and I’ve noticed that every single one of them smells like a struck match.  We also call this flinty. It’s a bit like I imagine hell will smell like. Brimstone. I know this smell already, actually, from my years in the steel industry, where we removed sulphur at super high temperatures, and even added pure sulphur sometimes. I know what burnt sulphur smells like.
  • We typically associate this flinty smell with either Sauvignon Blanc (a varietal trait, owing to a chemical called pyrazine) or excess SO2, but it gets more complicated than that. How could a 2004 Sauvignon Blanc still have excess SO2? Jeez, how much did they bottle it with?  SO2 is normally associated with young whites, where the SO2 has not been incorporated into the wine yet through various reactions.
  • There have been accusations of screwcapped wine having a higher than normal level of sulphur problems, mainly of the H2S variety. Hydrogen sulphide really stinks. Like rotten eggs or sewer gas, or maybe farts, lots of farts, working together to take you down.  It is not supposed to exist in the final product, but can sometimes form during fermentation and aging processes. Other comments in the research noted burnt rubber, skunk, garlic and onion. All unacceptable in wine, unless you have the palate of my long deceased beagle, Jet (he’d want dead fish added to balance out the flavours).
  • Research shows that screwcapped wines go into a reductive state, as opposed to oxidative, because the cap creates a much tighter seal than for natural cork. When reductive, chemical reactions can happen that produce complex sulphur compounds. One of these (Ethyl Mercaptan, CH3CH2SH, to be specific) smells like a struck match. If the reaction proceeds far enough, you can get disulphides, things that smell like rubber and garlic, like this sucker: CH3CH2SSCH2CH3. I’ve smelled these things in old wines. These cannot be removed easily.

 

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Reply by napagirl68, May 11, 2014.

Dmcker,.. the wine was from Napa, and it had a cork.  I know, it doesn't fit the article profile, but it was one of the best articles I came upon to explain my issue,  Albiet, it was na distributed wine, which I usually shy away from as a group.  However, I have had this wine in the past and it was decent.  I was able to exchange today for only the same bottle (long story), and I will see.  Fortunately, it was only ~$20.  Ugghhh...  Nasty.

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Reply by outthere, May 11, 2014.

I think that guy needs to buy different wine.

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Reply by napagirl68, May 11, 2014.

ok, so second bottle of SB showed same fault.  Big rotten egg sulpher on the nose.   On palate, it is not off majorly, but with the nose, it's done and I can't even begin to discern any palate due to the nose.   Again, it's a wine with a traditional cork, so not like the article so much.  I am thinking sulfur gone bad in bottle... doesn't reek of brett... I  don't know, but it's awful.

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Reply by dmcker, May 12, 2014.

What OT said...

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Reply by gregt, May 12, 2014.

The blog post is several years old and out of date.

Research shows that screwcapped wines go into a reductive state, as opposed to oxidative, because the cap creates a much tighter seal than for natural cork.

Substandard grammar issues aside, WHAT "research"?

What happens is that every cork is different. Cork is not a manufactured product. So you get averages but you can't state with any certainty what might happen with a single cork.

You can create specs for a bottle, for a capsule, for anything else, but with cork it's always going to be random. Why do people still use corks? Ignorance mostly. It was a nice closure back in the days of King James when material science had nothing that was compressible and water-tight.

Because people have no idea what will happen with a particular cork, they assume that there's going to be a lot of air exchange and they add sulfur accordingly. Since half the corks will have lots of air exchange, that's a good precaution. Of course, half the corks won't and the perfect corks will be like the Stelvin, but those are a minority of the production. And if you opened one of those bottles, you'd get the same poop and stink you get from the Stelvin. Nobody knows which corks those are however. It's the beauty of cork - half the people get screwed and a lot of times you're not one of them.

Given that you won't get any air exchange from a non-cork closure, people simply adjust their sulfur levels downward. It's pretty well understood at this point that you don't want to sulfur at the same levels you would with a cork closure.

What you really don't want is for your wine to go "into an oxidative state" whatever that is. I assume it means you have oxygen contact. And of course, that will nicely ruin your wine.

A perfect cork makes a perfect seal. And no. Air does not go through the cork to age your wine.

Bad article and it doesn't address NG's problem. I don't think flint is related to pyrazines, but I may be completely wrong there. Pyrazines, usually in the form of methoxypyrazine, are what gives Sauv Blanc, Cab Franc, Merlot, Carmenere, Cab Sauv and all those related grapes the green pepper and herbal aromas.

You can reduce the MP concentration in the juice considerably, like by half, if you let the juice settle. You can also pluck leaves that shield the grapes. UV rays destroy the MP and that way you eliminate the MP before even harvesting. And you can further attenuate it by adjusting the number of buds you leave, by the ripeness of the stems, etc.

Maybe what he's calling flint can be from pyrazines, but I think it's more related to sulfur or brett or non-malolactic fermentation of Sauvignon Blanc in particular.

All in all, not the most up-to-date article.

However, to help out my friend Napagirl, I would suggest a sure-fire way to avoid the problem in the future. Do like I do and simply avoid Sauvignon Blanc entirely. You'll be drinking better wine, you won't have that poop problem, and you'll be living a happier life.

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Reply by outthere, May 12, 2014.

No poop Greg!

i still drink SB though. We had one just last night.

 

Trying to push the hotel spam off page 1.

 

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Reply by gregt, May 12, 2014.

Poor guy. You couldn't have found any Chardonnay or better yet, some Syrah? Don't put yourself through that purgatory. If you don't have anything else in the house, break down and go to the nearest store!

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Reply by dvogler, May 12, 2014.

Don't they make screw-tops that have different sealing qualities?  I heard there are some that "simulate" a cork's ability to allow a certain degree of permeability.

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Reply by EMark, May 13, 2014.

I agree, Darrin.  At least I agree that I seem to recall reading that the permeability of the seal could be varied. 

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Reply by gregt, May 14, 2014.

D - yes. You can manufacture to whatever spec you want.

If you want permeability, you can manufacture to obtain it. However, remember that an ideal cork does not allow air exchange. The fact that most do has to do with the imperfection of cork rather than anything desirable. The advantage of manufacturing your closure is that you can be sure all the bottles will have the same seal.

When people started to be serious about cork alternatives and they started experimenting with screw caps around 30 years ago, the winemakers didn't know so they acted as if the closure would act the same way a cork would. They ended up with sulfur problems. Soon enough they learned that a perfect seal requires less sulfur than a cork does, so they've now learned to use less. It's no longer particularly controversial or mysterious.

Some producers prefer to have some air exchange for whatever reason - they buy the screwcaps that allow some air exchange and they also sulfur accordingly. Mind you, we're talking about miniscule amounts of sulfur, but a little bit goes a long way. But the key point is that you have to adjust your practices to your closure.

The disadvantage of screw caps has nothing to do with the sealing ability, it's that you have to incur an initial expense to change your bottling line and more importantly, they're slightly fragile. You can compromise the seal by bashing the end of the bottle. If you do, you dent the cap and you risk air leaks. Cork partisans sometimes point to that as a fault. However, it's not really that big a problem. You could break bottles too, so does that mean we should stop using glass?

Anyhow, I don't have any idea what NG's problem with her SB really was, but I'd bet they simply didn't adjust the sulfur regimen to accommodate the screw cap.

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Reply by napagirl68, May 14, 2014.

 

From GregT:

The disadvantage of screw caps has nothing to do with the sealing ability, it's that you have to incur an initial expense to change your bottling line and more importantly, they're slightly fragile. You can compromise the seal by bashing the end of the bottle. If you do, you dent the cap and you risk air leaks. Cork partisans sometimes point to that as a fault. However, it's not really that big a problem. You could break bottles too, so does that mean we should stop using glass?

Anyhow, I don't have any idea what NG's problem with her SB really was, but I'd bet they simply didn't adjust the sulfur regimen to accommodate the screw cap.

Re: the first paragraph:  Absolutely true.  I have talked with really great winemakers who are making smaller lots, and have had some cork issues.  The main issue for them is cost to switch over.

Second paragraph:  I did not have a screw cap.  I mentioned that, and said my situation may not really pertain exactly to the article I posted.  But I do feel it was a sulfur fault.  After research, talking to some in-person wine people, we seemed to have agreed upon that.  So, perhaps this was an outlier in production- wrong sulfite ratio perhaps.   The oddity for me is that  I have not encountered this in a bottle EVER in my extensive history...

 

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Reply by gregt, May 14, 2014.

It's what's nice about wine. Always something new! Sounds exactly like some kind of sulfur fault, although from where and why, who knows.

And duh. I know you said it wasn't screw-capped. Responding to dvogler's comment, I forgot that. Anyhow, another possibility is the bottling run? Sometimes people do things like bottle part of a tank to fill an order or something. Then there's still a lot of wine in the tank and a lot of air space, so they add more sulfur. Then they bottle more and sulfur again. By the time the last bottling comes around, there's a lot of sulfur in the wine. Those wines are pretty much ruined.

Anyhow, the poop smell could very well also be brett. There are different kinds of brett and the effects depend a lot on the concentration as well.  Here's a blogger take.

http://fermentationwineblog.com/2013/04/that-poopy-smell-in-your-wine-its-all-good/

Here's a pic of the brett wheel. Linda Bisson at UC Davis is one of the foremost researchers for that stuff these days. She came up with this chart.

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Reply by dmcker, May 14, 2014.

"Linda Bisson at UC Davis is one of the foremost researchers for that stuff these days."

Talked before about her recent work with brett in this thread


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