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Ask Dr. Vinny

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What causes the petrol smell in some wines?

—Jim H., Simpsonville, S.C.

Dear Jim,

That whiff of petrol, kerosene, gasoline or paraffin that can be found in wines like Riesling is because of a chemical compound known as TDN (1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene), which can form as a byproduct of a wine’s aging process.

While some might find it strange, I love that distinctive note, especially if it’s in balance with other elements. I’ve heard that it becomes more pronounced in grapes that are very ripe, or dehydrated, but both of those things concentrate all types of notes in wine, not just the petrol ones.

—Dr. Vinny

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