When does the matchstick in chardonnay blow off?

The first time I had Dujac (their Bourgogne blanc) was the first time I smelled and tasted sulfur. COOL, I thought, because I didn’t know wine could taste that way. I have recently fallen for Walter Scott, which is famous for that. Does that matchstick dissipate with decanting or not? With the wine warming up? Will it be less noticable with aging?

Yes, yes and yes. It’s not really sulfur, but instead sulfur-containing volatile compounds. For example that matchstick note you talked about is benzenemethanethiol aka benzyl mercaptan, which (in minuscule amounts) imparts a lovely, smoky struck matchstick note.

While “reduction” in wine does not really mean the same thing as “reduction” in chemistry, these so-called reductive elements appear when wine is made reductively (i.e. in the absence of oxygen) and often reductive elements offer some protection against oxidation. That also means that as the wine ages, the reductive elements first disappear and with further aging, more oxidative elements start to creep in. This doesn’t mean that oxidation and reduction in wine couldn’t co-exist; for example Madeira is often very oxidative, but older bottles can be heavily reductive as well.

Letting the wine aerate can blow reduction off, but it really depends on how reductive the wine is. A mild reduction can blow off in an hour or so, but a heavily reductive wine might need more time than the wine is capable of waiting - meaning multiple days. If the reduction gets so bad that foul-smelling mercaptans start to appear in excess, the wine often becomes just faulty. These compounds really don’t go anywhere even with vigorous aeration or prolonged decanting.

Jamie Goode has written a nice, informative piece on reduction in wines: Explaining reduction, and dispelling some myths – wineanorak.com


Thanks so much for that link. It explains a lot.

Thanks Otto. That is as clear of an explanation as I have ever read. I finally understand it.

Wow, I just found this and remembered a Ridge Estate Chardonnay that I had and returned because I thought it was faulty. The matchstick nose and flavor overwhelmed me. The replacement bottle was just the same and I found out that this was normal for this wine. For many, this is a desirable thing but for me, a deal breaker. Thanx for the information.

Or, maybe the just over-sulphured their barrels. That will give a distinct matchstick taste that lingers… [wink.gif]

A tip I was given years ago, which seems to work, is to give the bottle a good shake after pouring a small glass.

A buddy hangs an old (cleaned) copper coin (can’t recall the country of origin, but it is old) via string hung from a pencil into his decanter whenever he comes across something a bit too reductive to be enjoyed. He swears it cleans it up within 30-40 minutes. I know there’s a chemical reaction that converts H2S gas into a solid (copper sulfide), which doesn’t stink but I often wonder if it’s just the air that is assisting mild h2s to blow off.
A properly sanitized length of copper plumbing pipe could work I suppose.

That’s just hyper decanting. Can work with closed/muted wines and no time to properly aerate.