Montagnac Vieux Chateau d’Oc bottled

30 bottles of Chateau d'Oc

30 bottles of Chateau d'Oc

Today, I bottled my Montagnac Vieux Chateau d’Oc which I’d been bulk aging in carboy since January. I got 30 bottles plus about a half a bottle. I sampled a bit prior to bottling, and though while still a very very young wine, I think this may be my the best wine I’ve made so far. It does have a little of the “chemical” smell to it. I wish I knew what that was, and how to get rid of it. It does have less of it than any other wine I’ve made so far. With this wine, I was very diligent about rinsing all carboys, bottles, etc., after sanitizing, which they tell you not to do, but the sanitizing agent (Potassium meta-bisulfite) is so noxious to me, and so faintly reminiscent of the “chemical” odor and taste that I complain about that, screw it, I’m rinsing that shit out. If I’m going to pay $150 or so for a premium wine kit, I’ll be damned if it gets ruined by K-meta. Of course, it could get ruined by spoiling as a consequence of this, but better that than ruined by K-meta.

I had about a glass of this wine by itself. So far, it is pretty rough. I expect that it will improve greatly with age. Mixing it, rough as it is, half and half with a Tempranillo/cabernet blend commercial wine, I find the blend to be superior to either by themselves. Had this blend tonight with a N.Y. strip steak I grilled, along with “campfire veggies” — a mixture of sliced onions, squash (or zucchini), and potatoes, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper, wrapped in aluminum foil, and tossed on the grill. For that, it was excellent.

So far, with these kit wines, I’ve been disappointed by this “chemical” smell that seems invariably to accompany them. Today, I thought I might have figured it out. I thought that perhaps the plastic bag which the juice comes in might be the problem. I’ve noticed, for instance, that if you leave water sitting around in a (clone of a) Nalgene bottle for awhile, the water picks up a nasty smell, and the chemical smell I’m picking up is not entirely unlike this smell (though it’s not identical.) Well, I had saved the box the juice came in (or rather, failed to throw it away) and the plastic bag was still there, so I gave it a good sniff… not a trace of this “chemical” smell I’m getting from the wine. So, that’s probably not it. I have, now and then, deteced a very faint hint of the same “chemical” smell in commercial wines, but no where nearly as strong as with the kit wines I’ve made. I’m hoping it’s just a matter of aging the wine, though I’m not entirely optimistic. Once the wine is under cork, where is the cause of this “chemical” smell going to go? Through the cork? Unlikely.

The wine kit makers really have to solve this problem.

All my kits so far have been WinExpert kits. I’m going to try an RJ Spagnols “Cellar Classic” kit next. It will be interesting to see how it compares.

Edit: Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. I used shrink wrap capsules on the bottles this time, black with gold trim. I’ve never used them before. They were astonishingly easy to apply. You get a big pot of boiling water, put a capsule over a corked wine bottle, and using your index finger on the edge of it to hold it in place, dip the top of the bottle into the water, and when the top shrinks, let go with your index finger and submerge the rest of the capsule, then remove it from the water. The entire operation takes about 1 second. Literally, a count of “one-one-thousand,” or “one-chimpanzee,” and it’s done. Looks pretty cool too. Not as cool as the foil ones, but I have no idea what it would take to get foil capsules — probably some expensive machinery.

~ by scaryreasoner on August 29, 2008.

7 Responses to “Montagnac Vieux Chateau d’Oc bottled”

  1. Love the labels. Can’t help with the smell though. My sister makes her own wine from the kits, and I’ve never noticed any chemical smell to it. Not sure what she uses.

  2. Thanks Dan.

    As for the smell, I think many people cannot smell it. My parents don’t seem to smell it for instance. I’m not any kind of great smeller though — I watch guys like Gary Vaynerchuk ( and wonder why is nose is so — almost prehensile in its smelling abilities.) But, this particular smell stands out for me. But, it might just be me, and a few other mutants who smell it, which would explain why the kit makers haven’t eradicated it.

  3. Scary,

    First, thanks for your business–looks like you’re doing a lot of thoughtful and careful winemaking, and it’s great to see someone blogging about it.

    Second, while it’s tough to categorize aromatic descriptors at a distance, I’m pretty sure the characteristic in your wine you describe as chemical might be the signs of youth. When a wine is very, very young, such as any Crushendo kit under two years old, it will have a lot of terpenes, esters, ketones and aldehydes in play. As time passes these compounds combine, degrade and change, until they begin delivering the kind of bouquet you’d expect from a higher-end commercial wine.

    If you’ve ever tasted commercial red wine right out of a fermenter at six or seven weeks old, it might have a lot of the same characters.

    There is a way to avoid this: make the value-priced, low-volume kits. With less total dissolved solid material, they produce fewer of these green characters and show a little better when young. Of course, they don’t deliver as much character when they’re fully mature, but that’s the trade-off.

    Kit manufacturers could solve this the way commercial wineries have done, by adding post-fermentation polyphenols, mannoproteins and other processing aids, which allow a lot of sub-$20 bottles of wine to be drank very young. So far we’ve resisted for a couple of reasons. First, it looks bad: adding magic powders to wine to change the flavour isn’t in keeping with the traditional craft of home winemaking. Second, the results can be quite variable, and might not be an improvement in all cases–commercial wineries rely on bench tests and professional flavour consultants to blend and rectify their wines.

    So, for now, the only way to eliminate this rough, green character is to age the wine out–patience!

    If you’ve noted this specific character in well-aged wines, then it might be something else. I’m assuming that you’ve fully degassed the wines, but if not, even a very small amount of CO2 gas in suspension causes the development of carbonic acid in solution. It makes the wine flat, bitter and a little chemical-y (think of the difference between club soda and plain water).

    The only other thing I can think of is a residue, but you sound like you’ve got good practises, so that’s probably not it either.

    If you’d like to talk directly to me about it, drop me a line at tim(at)winexpert(dot)com.


    Tim Vandergrift
    Technical Services Manager
    Winexpert Ltd.

  4. Hi Tim! Thanks for the very informative reply. Glad to hear that you think it might just need aging. This jives with my experience of having detected this smell faintly in young commercial wines — don’t remember exactly which ones, but probably a Lindemann’s Shiraz, if I had to guess — though I’ve gotten off those lately.

    I’ve got the majority of a St. Ynez Valley kit remaining, and the majority of a SuperTuscan kit as well — both of them about 1.5 years old now. Patience isn’t a problem for me on this front so no worries about me having drunk it all before its time!

  5. ^^^ St. Ynez Valley Syrah, I mean.

  6. The chemical smell is residual sulfite. Give it time. The sulfite will dissapate and mellow with ageing (minimum 6 months in the bottle AFTER bulk ageing). 6-8 weeks??? Bull****!! One to three YEARS, and you’ll be rewarded with excellent wine, and it won’t cost you $20-$30 per bottle.

    I don’t even bother with bulk must anymore, either locally grown or shipped from Napa or Canadian brokers. These kits (WineExpert and Spagnols) are excellent quality and nearly foolproof. Being makin’ my own since the mid-70s.

  7. Thanks for the comment TedB, and thanks for contributing your thoughts about your experience making kit wines.

    As it happens I just had a nearly 2 year old SuperTuscan a few days ago… wasn’t too thrilled with it. Well, let it sit some more, I guess.

    I think my nearly 2 year old Syrah is much better than the SuperTuscan, though it’s been awhile since I’ve opened one.

    Down to about the end of my very first kit, about 2 years old, a WineExpert Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, specifically chosen for supposedly early drinking since it was my first kit… it’s only just now getting drinkable, but only 3 bottles left of that, heh. That’s the way with first kits though, so no real surprise there.

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