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 Rubber tire
That earthy, dark scent of black rubber is an intriguing aroma, but it's not something I would really care to find in my wine.
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 This week on
Our columnists take a look at "travel shock" and a broad-ranging tasting of Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. On our forums, a conversation about matching vegetarian dishes and wine, and a poll on the current incidence of cork-tainted wine.
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This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Apr. 30, 2007 and can be found at

Rubber tire

Park your car in the sun on a warm Spring day, and, after it's been there for a while - assuming you're not worried that your neighbors will think you've lost your mind - get down on your hands and knees and take a good, long sniff at one of the tires.

Got that smell? That earthy, dark scent of rubber (okay, it's synthetic, but never mind that) with an overlay of sulfur? It's an intriguing aroma, not entirely unpleasant. But it's not something I would really care to find in my wine.

In fact, however, it happens from time to time, most recently just the other night when a persistent, dominating rubbery aroma pretty much spoiled my enjoyment of a relatively affordable Spanish red wine that I had been anticipating. In contrast with the sort-of-reminds-me nature of many offbeat wine descriptors like "petrol" and "barnyard" that evoke, rather than precisely resembling the real thing, this was a true black-rubber aroma as clear and true as you'd get from sticking your nose into an old black-rubber boot.

What's going on here?

In their useful if somewhat dated "Wines, Their Sensory Evaluation" (1976), University of California at Davis Profs. Maynard A. Amerine and Edward B. Roessler attributed this "rubbery" aroma to low-acid grapes and nicknamed it "The Fresno odor" because of its association with California Central Valley wines of the era.

More accurately, "rubber tire" is a wine fault associated with sulfur and sulfur compounds (not to be confused with sulfites used as a natural preservative). It's often blamed on "reduction" - the opposite of oxidation - in which sulfury components with unpleasant smells that can range from rubber to cooked cabbage to swamp gas turn up in wine that's been stored in the absence of oxygen.

It's not a pleasant character, but the good news is that it's usually reversible by vigorous aeration, overnight "breathing" or even an old wine-maker's trick that sounds like an urban legend, but really is not: Drop a clean copper-clad penny (or a Euro cent) into a glass of the affected wine, swirl it a few times, and, if you're lucky, the reductive aromas will quickly go away. Or stir the wine with a shiny silver spoon. As I've reported in past discussions of this topic, it's not magic, just chemistry: The metal in the coin or spoon reacts with the hydrogen sulfide (H2S) that's causing the problem in the wine, quickly converting the smelly compound into insoluble, odorless (and harmless) copper or silver sulfide.

Wouldn't it be nice if all wine faults could be neutralized as easily as that?

Peique 2005 Bierzo Tinto Mencia ($11.99)


This is a very dark reddish-purple wine, shading to a clear edge. It starts with the distinct "rubber-tire" aroma of a sulfury, reductive wine, but time (or a copper-clad penny) banishes this flaw, revealing blackberries and plums, pleasant and rather delicate fruit, that carries over in a fresh and ripe flavor well balanced by crisp acidity. Soft tannins show mostly in the finish. U.S. importer: Vinos & Gourmet Inc., Richmond, Calif., a Jose Pastor Selection. (April 25, 2007)

FOOD MATCH: Food friendly, fine with burgers or steak. It went nicely with a variation, burgers fashioned from ground turkey thigh meat with a spicy Southwestern accent to help camoflauge its non-beef origin.

VALUE: With an asterisk about the reductive issue, which is reversible, it's a fine value - as are so many Spanish reds - in the lower teens.

WHEN TO DRINK: Once you banish the sulfury reductiveness, its clean fruit and acidic balance suggest a wine that will keep for at least a year or two, although there's no reason not to drink it now.

Mencia = "Mehn-see-ah" (or "Mehn-thee-ah" in Castilian Spanish)
Bierzo = "B'yehr-zoe"

The importer's slightly too-fancy Website doesn't make it easy to go directly to a fact sheet on Bodegas Peique, but try this: Click the link below to get to the front page, then click "Estates." When the map of Spain comes up, hover your cursor over the dots in the northwestern section until Bierzo comes up. Click, then click "Bodegas Pieque" from the resulting page, and you're finally there.

Check prices and find vendors for Peique Bierzo Mencia on

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This week on

Dibbern on Wine: A Shock to the System
Wine lovers, advocates, enthusiasts, spectators and aficionados, let's get right to the controversy: Travel shock, believe it or not? Columnist Donald A. Dibbern Jr. takes an in-depth look at this controversial topic.

WebWineMan: You Say Gris, We Say Great!
They call it Pinot Gris in Oregon and France; the Italians call it Pinot Grigio. Richard Fadeley and the Columbia (S.C.) Free Times tasting team scrutinize this easy-drinking, thirst-quenching wine.

This week's "TalkShoe": Best wines and a special guest
We invited Gary Vaynerchuk from WineLibraryTV to join us special guest on this week's live Internet radio TalkShoe to discuss his cutting-edge Internet wine videos. You can download the show to listen online or with your iPod; and don't forget to mark your calendar to join us next Monday at 12:30 p.m. US EDT (18:30 in Western Europe). See the TalkShoe page for details:

WineLovers Discussion Group: Can vegetarian fare be matched with fine wine?
A reader's question yielded a resounding "yes" from vegetarians and omnivores alike in our WineLovers Discussion Group forum. You'll find lots of good specific suggestions as you read the conversation and, we hope, add your own comments and suggestions.

Netscape WineLovers Community Poll: How common is "corked" wine?
It's time for another of our periodic "snapshot" polls in which we look for a current reading on wine lovers' perceptions of the incidence of cork-tainted wine. The field seems to be changing fast, as screw caps and synthetic closures gain market share, while the cork industry fights back by pushing quality control, at least at the premium level. We're hoping for a large number of votes and comments this week, as our Netscape/CompuServe Community poll invites you to tell us your cork-taint experiences.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Exploring Burgundy - Where's Monthelie? (Apr. 27, 2006)

 When blends break the law (Apr. 25, 2006)

 What's on the label? (Apr. 23, 2006)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Tuna and shrimp orzo (Apr. 26, 2006)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: