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Terrible Wine Terms


Rebel Rose
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Inspired by the "24 karat taste buds" thread, here's a link to an interesting discussion on cat piss in pinot grigio.

What other words and phrases are used to describe fine wines that would normally evoke a disgusted shudder, or at the very least a perplexed look?

Pencil lead. Mm, is that with or without the wood and yellow paint? Any eraser dust in that?

Tar. I often get a perplexed look from customers on this one. They say, "You mean asphalt?" :unsure:

Compost. A common descriptor for Pinot Noir. City folk don't get it.

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Great post, RR.

I often get 'stewed cabbage' on certain red Burgundies and indeed bottle-aged Pinot Noir seems sometimes to offer more vegetal aromas than fruity ones. Sounds disgusting, but actually I often enjoy the organic characteristics of such wines.

'Sweaty saddle' is a pretty self-descriptive term sometimes used for odiferous Aussie reds, or beefy Rhônes - funnily enough, again the term is not necessarily perjorative: leathery, animal aromas

As for 'cat pee', I associate that a lot more with Sauvignon Blanc than with Pinot Grigio.

Riesling, again with bottle age, sometimes offers a whiff of petrol (gasoline) mixed with honey, a potent but potentially delicious and intriguing mix.

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How about Barnyard. Perhaps a barnyard in the Cote Nuit smells different then the feedlot beside I 5 near Colinga. Still it can't be good.

To me barnyard is bad wine. I believe it is caused by a wild yeast. I send it back. :unsure:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

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As for 'cat pee', I associate that a lot more with Sauvignon Blanc than with Pinot Grigio.

...and I thought it was associated with Scheurebe. I guess lots of folks can't get enough of the stuff!

aka Michael

Chi mangia bene, vive bene!

"...And bring us the finest food you've got, stuffed with the second finest."

"Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos."

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Wet dog.

Horse blanket.

Weedy. (very much for low end Pinot Girgio, to my taste)

Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

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Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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i've actually used asphalt, sted tar, to describe an aroma.  maybe it was tar mixed with stones.

people also refuse to believe me when i say a wine tastes "rocky."  i guess they never licked rocks when they were kids.  :smile:

rocky sounds like another way to describe mineral flavors

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South African Pinotage, a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is often described as having distinct characteristics of both burnt rubber and baked bananas. This may be one reason why it has caught on somewhat slowly outside its homeland. :smile:

(To be fair, good Pinotage producers make some very nice wines that evoke rather more traditional associations with plums, cherries and blackberries.)

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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"foxy"... I hate the word. I have smelled foxes, and it quite obviously can't be a literal thing... so why foxy?

I had a great time around the Finger Lakes in 2000 and tasted many V. labrusca wines, some of which were truly excellent. They don't deserve this term of approbrium. :)

Allan Brown

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Fun discussion.

As far as cat piss, cat pee, litter box, cat box, etc., yes it's been used as a descriptor for sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc, pinot gris/grigio, and scheurebe.

Foxy is a quality generally associated with wines made from labrusca grapes more than from vinifera grapes. I'm not sure it has much to do with foxes as much as it has to do with concord grape juice.

I get graphite on many Tuscan sangiovese wines.

I've also seen the word diesel for riesling.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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some of these special smells and descriptors could arise from brettanomyces or "brett" as it is ?affectionately? known...

One common description likens the smell of a major Brett infection to a dirty mouse cage. The wine's fruitiness vanishes, and it loses any indication of varietal character.

oh, and in case you don't read the article, another adjective they use is:

"bandaid box"...

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Thanks for the link on brettanomyces in wine, ludja. I always thought that, with the natural pH of wine and the sulfite tolerance of the yeasts used, there was very little or no risk of brett infection. Not so with beer, and in fact some styles would be considered 'flawed' without it- spontaneously fermented Lambics in particular. If anybody would like to get some first hand experience with the 'horse blanket' characteristic a bottle of Gueuze would be a good place to start. It's pretty distinctive once you get to know it.

I'm not so sure how it would come across in a wine, though. Probably not my thing but, hey, you never know.

aka Michael

Chi mangia bene, vive bene!

"...And bring us the finest food you've got, stuffed with the second finest."

"Excellent, sir. Lobster stuffed with tacos."

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What other words and phrases are used to describe fine wines that would normally evoke a disgusted shudder, or at the very least a perplexed look?

Pencil lead.  Mm, is that with or without the wood and yellow paint? Any eraser dust in that?

If they ever get a chance to smell a Lafite Rothschild that's at least 10 years old, they'll get exactly what this means. Sell 'em a bottle and tell them to invite you over in ten years so you can describe what it means. Oh, and it's a number 2 pencil. :cool:

Cat wee to me is definitely New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. First time a friend of mine tried one heavily 'scented' with it she nearly threw up. "What's wrong with this wine?" as she stared at the cat.

What is unctuous?

austere?

focused?

precocious?

ponderous?

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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My sister just returned from New Zealand, where she encountered Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush. No lie.  It's the name of the wine.

I received a bottle of this very wine as a gift from a dear friend that thought I'd find it highly amusing. And I did. It was grounded in a joke from a staff training I had done at her restaurant where the least knowledgeable waitperson had the most acutely observant commentary on the wines. Aside from noticing the "eau du litterbox" in the Sauvignon Blanc, the very same person pointed out that the corked bottle of wine I'd specifically saved to illustrate what "corked " wine meant, "smelled like a dirty hot tub". :laugh:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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What is unctuous?

austere?

focused?

precocious?

ponderous?

Unctuous is a term I've seen more in Parker's notes than anyone else's. Think luscious, fat, oily-rich, that sort of thing.

Austere -- see the opposite of unctuous. This is a term I use on occastion to describe wines that seem leaner, less forwardly fruity.

Focused -- Guilty. When I use it, I am generally meaning tightly-knit, usually acidic, and typically I'm getting the same impression from bouquet to finish.

Precocious and Ponderous -- No clue.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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There can also be found "dissolver" in wine (hopefully only in the nose :rolleyes: ) and "rotten forest foliage" (synonym for compost).

As for diesel, there's the French expression (especially with Alsatian rieslings) gôut de pétrol.

Edited by Boris_A (log)

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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The french also will use "gout de merde", often found in great red burgundies, it is most closely associated with barnyard or clean horse stables...It really isn't off putting at all.

"When I lived in Paris, and champagne was relatively cheap, I always enjoyed a half-bottle in the middle of the morning and another half-bottle at six or so in the evening. It did me a tremendous amount of good." - Gerald Hamilton.
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Precocious and Ponderous -- No clue.

Well, truth be told, I got these out of Parker's latest Bordeaux book. Sometimes I think he goes too far out of his way with his adjectives.

BTW, how many words are really needed in a wine taster's repertoire?

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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