It’s a typical aroma/flavor we find in east coast US wine: under-ripe, green and musky, but not the same as those flavors elsewhere. Though similar to notes imparted by the compound pyrazine — which can add a cat pee aroma to Sauvignon Blanc or green pepper to Cabernet Franc & Sauvignon — this specific formation doesn’t seem to occur outside the eastern US. (I’m less familiar with flyover state wine, so unsure if it appears there TBH.) For a long time, I had referred to this flavor as simply ‘east coast’ in my notes, lacking any further understanding. PAVC co-founder Jeff Alexander and I also discussed it, but he was as perplexed as I about the exact cause or description.
I was inspired to post a question about this unique flavor on Twitter, curious if others had a better explanation for this phenomenon. It was Va La’s knowledgeable Anthony Vietri who– unsurprisingly–came to the rescue, sharing that this flavor had once been called “east coast twang.”
It is a result of “pyrazines + malic [acid] + phenolics from lack of sun exposure, etc.,” he wrote. “Although thankfully it was more prevalent in the past than today.”
Local wine has indeed improved greatly in the past decade or so, as the industry has become more consistent. “Leaf-pulling, thinner canopies, crop reduction, global warming, etc., all are tools that are employed to reduce [east coast twang],” added Vietri. Choosing the right grapes to grow in this climate — including a new crop of hybrids better suited to our evolving weather — may also help.
That said, one who drinks a lot of wine from PA and neighboring states is likely to experience a substantial amount of this east coast twang. And, unfortunately, even a small amount can make a wine less desirable. Hopefully, however, as the industry continues to improve and learn about how to avoid these off flavors, east coast twang will one day become a thing of the past.