We are an importer, exporter & wholesaler of alcoholic beverages & food with type 14 public warehouse & fulfillment service

Ask a Wine Pro: Are Reductive Notes in Wine Always a Flaw?

Depending on how you first encountered reductive notes in wine, hearing this scientific term can either elicit a giddy excitement or nervous hesitation. This is because “reductive” can be used to describe two completely different flavor profiles: one that offers notes of matchstick, smoke, and flint; and another more akin to cabbage, rubber, and eggs. (It should be obvious which one is more desirable.)

So how do we distinguish between these styles? VinePair asked Charles Gaeta of Boston’s Dedalus Wine Shop to shed some light on what factors cause a wine to lean one way or the other.

“I think the most important distinction to make is separating ‘reductive winemaking’ as a style from ‘reduction’ in wine,” Gaeta says. “Reductive winemaking has long been an important technique, particularly in white wines, that’s often employed in Chardonnay from Burgundy and Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley.” In these wines, those notes of matchstick are often revered and highly sought after. “But reduction in wine is not something we seek out — it’s the consequences of when reductive winemaking is overdone or when the wine is out of balance and the notes become a little aggressive. That pleasant burnt matchstick can easily start to smell like burnt rubber,” he adds.

You might recall from a high-school chemistry class that reduction and oxidation work in opposition to one another, so at its core, reductive winemaking is preventing the wine from seeing too much oxygen. “After the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s in Burgundy, the wines were showing a lot of premox (premature oxidation), so embracing more reductive winemaking techniques was kind of an answer to that,” Gaeta says.

There are many methods that winemakers can use to limit a wine’s exposure to oxygen, and when this is done intentionally and on a high-quality level, it can have stunning results, adding a great complexity to the wine. “Factors like barrel size, lees aging, and implementing organic agriculture can all contribute to an overall more reductive environment and result in beautiful wines,” he says.

Reductive winemaking can also help preserve the freshness of a wine, so it’s often used with fruit-forward Sauvignon Blancs and Grüner Veltliners that are meant to be drunk young. Many of these are fermented and aged in stainless-steel tanks on the lees to limit oxygen exposure and maintain the fresh, fruity qualities.

When these techniques are misused or get out of balance is where the wines can go wrong and produce more of the off-flavors associated with reduction. This can depend on the quality of producer, the vintage, the aforementioned winemaking techniques, and how judicious or aggressive the winemaking was with added sulfites. Sometimes, if a wine immediately shows intense reductive aromas, they can blow off with some time in the glass, so it’s worth giving the wine a few minutes to open up to see whether or not it’s totally out of whack. If after 30 minutes or so the rotten egg smells are still unbearable, that level of reduction is considered a flaw.

If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of coming across the less desirable notes of reduction and are wary of trying any of these wines, Gaeta suggests trying a few different white Burgundies side-by-side to see the impact of different approaches. At wine shops like Dedalus, the store managers would be happy to guide you toward some producers known for this style. Since Burgundy can be a bit pricey, Gaeta also recommends a few Chardonnays from around the world that can also exhibit the best of reductive winemaking, including examples from Bodega Chacra in Patagonia, Domaine du Pélican in the Jura, and By Farr in Australia. Now that you know you don’t have to squirm everytime you hear the term “reductive,” there are a lot of great wines out there to explore.

*Image retrieved from Parilov via stock.adobe.com

The article Ask a Wine Pro: Are Reductive Notes in Wine Always a Flaw? appeared first on VinePair.

Leave a Comment

Resize text-+=