Ask Quvé: Unfined or Unleaded? Petrol-smelling wines

Ask Quvé: Unfined or Unleaded? Petrol-smelling wines

We were so pleased to meet Toronto-based film and television director Joyce Wong this New Year's Day over a piping hot meal of authentic goat birria enjoyed together in the most comfortable, yet unexpectedly matching monochrome casuals.

As we piled morsel after morsel of tender, juicy birria into steaming tortillas, we discussed the joys of food, travel and discovering new wines. Here's Joyce's question for Ask Quvé below. What do you think of petrolly wines? Have you ever tried one? Let us know in the comments!


I really enjoy petrolly wines. Which ones might you suggest?


First of all, let's define "petroliness". Most commonly used through the past few decades (though less often nowadays) to describe wines made of the Riesling grape, the descriptor of petrol might sound atrocious (petrolcious?) for a drink, but I think Joyce would agree with me in that there is an invigorating quality to something smelling a little... well, gassy.

Think of the air you breathe in after filling up at the gas station, or starting a propane stove several times. You know those little blue pucks that fire up under a traditional chafing dish, right after you light up a new one? That smell.

Again, it sounds unappetizing, but blend it in with the other smells one might expect from the types of wines that typically also display notes of petrol - usually highly aromatic, high acid white wines - such as peachy, citrusy, sometimes tropical Riesling, and then you have a bouquet that's both refreshing and compelling. 

Don't worry! There is nothing unnatural about this character in wine. Like other aroma compounds found in grape molecules, it is pre-existing, and can be further enhanced by natural events such as sun exposure and/or other stresses on the grapevine. Varieties like Riesling are particularly sensitive, so that's why it's the signature grape for detecting such a scent.

So, now that we're on the same octane - my recommendations for great "petrolly" wine suggestions include:

  • Rieslings from Clare Valley, Australia
  • Rieslings from Eden Valley, Australia
  • Dry, high quality German Rieslings (look for "Kabinett" on the label)
  • Top quality German Rieslings labelled with "GG" on the bottle

(NB: Not all of these wines will show this quality as it is largely dependent on what occurs to the grapes during a particular harvest; however, these regions are generally the most likely to display such aromas.)


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