S. African Wines Aim to Put Brakes on 'Burnt Rubber' Rap

Exporters try to cast off a critic's harsh judgment
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2009 4:52 PM CDT
In this photo taken March 9, 2009, workers harvests grapes at the Graham Beck wine estate in Robertson, South Africa.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – South African is the ninth-largest producer of wine, with several distinctive varietals that should be poised to break into the global marketplace, the New York Times reports. But the country’s wines have been dogged by comments made in 2007 by an influential British wine critic, who said after a tasting of several South African reds that half were marred by a “peculiar, savage, burnt rubber” odor.

South Africa’s fate was sealed: Its wines taste like burnt rubber. A team of scientists organized by an exporters’ organization says the acrid taste is the result of sulfides left by negligent winemaking—and found it in other country’s wines as well. “This is not typically a South African problem,” commented one winemaker. “But you don’t find an easier dog to beat up on than South Africa.” (Read more wine stories.)