ID this wine flaw?

Any idea what flaw will give a wine an aroma of freshly popped unbuttered popcorn? The scent I’m describing isn’t diacetyl, with which I have a more than passing familiarity after a couple of summers working at a movie theater in the late 1980s. It is very much like popcorn freshly cooked in a a neutral oil or air popper and there is nothing buttery about it at all.

If it helps, I’ve mainly found it in red wines, though it isn’t something I find very often.

Can you give examples of the types of wines that you’ve experienced it with? I’m thinking it might be stem related?

Mike, freshly popped popcorn aroma has several pyrazine compounds giving off a variety of aromas. Some of the most powerful (ethyl pyrazine, dimethyl pyrazine) give off aroma and flavors of generic “nutty” and “burnt popcorn”.

Not sure if this is what you are smelling - tasting and not sure where it could be coming from but canopy cover and management can greatly influence pyrazines in wines. Sauvignon Blanc from NZ vs other areas of the world is a good example.


It may be pyrazines. The wine where the character was most pronounced to me was a 2011 Clos Roche Blanche Gamay, and looking at CT notes a lot of people are noting greenness that could be pyrazines, and 2011 raises the possibility of ladybug taint as well. I’ve also found it in cabernet family wines which are known for their pyrazines, though I don’t think I’ve normally found it with bell pepper aromas.

To describe the aroma I’m looking for further, it isn’t a generic “nuttiness” and definitely isn’t burnt popcorn. It is remarkably like fresh popped plain popcorn. Basmati rice is close, which is interesting because the popcorn aroma there apparently comes from a compound that is found in mousy wine, which is a flaw that I understand is normally only detectable when the wine is tasted while the aroma I’m trying to ID is readily apparent just sniffing the glass.

The most intense version was a Thunder Mountain Chardonnay from about fifteen years ago that a friend brought to a restaurant. The lactic element was an over the top malolactic and we figured the popcorn came from uncured oak. Nasty, nasty wine.

Thanks for those answers.

When I smell that, my first instinct is to think ‘Mourvedre’ for some reason, especially Sean Thackrey’s Taurus in the past.

I also wonder if, sometimes, being lazy between rinse/pour when moving between wines has made it happen through some odd alchemy.