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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Recently I purchased a half-case of 2009 Viognier from a well-known California Central Coast producer. I’ve opened three bottles, and all of them have been spritzy. I understand this is a common problem with pink wines if you wait too long to drink them, but this is a white wine that should be keepable for several years. What causes this problem in white wines?
—Gerry A., via the Internet
Spritz in a wine doesn’t have to do with a wine’s color. Either it was intentionally put there, or something happened to the wine after it was bottled. A winemaker could have purposely left behind or even added some additional carbon dioxide before bottling for style’s sake—a little CO2 will make a dull wine seem brighter, or it could be simply the style in which a wine is enjoyed (I expect a slight effervescence when I order a Vinho Verde, for example).
Or it could have been a mistake, an unintentional secondary fermentation that occurred in the bottle. The recent trend for unfined and unfiltered bottles, reduced sulfite additions, high pH levels in a wine ... these can contribute to something brewing in your bottle. If that’s the case, it’s considered a flaw; it would usually be accompanied by a distinct swampy note, and the wine might be cloudy or have a lot of sediment at the bottom of the bottle.
If you encounter a wine with some spritz in it and you’re not enjoying it, you can try to decant the wine or just give it a lot of air (big glass, lots of swirling) to see if those notes “blow off.” It will also help if a cold bottle of wine warms up, giving the CO2 a chance to dissolve.
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