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Terrible Wine Terms


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rocky sounds like another way to describe mineral flavors

partially -- but i ascribe minerality to a broad range of flavors, while "rocky" is something i only ascribe to red wines that have a minerality reminiscent of quartz, plus a certain dustiness. i don't think of it as something found in white wines.

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Quadrilateral? On four planes? The one that really seems to piss of the Kiwis is Asparagus. I thought the 2003 Villa Maria SB had a nice hint of asparagus. In a very positive way. Stuart Devine was insulted in his forum here.

I'll side with Stuart on this one. I love asparagus, but can't see it as anything but a neg-o in wine.

The only thing worse would be asparagus pee.

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

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  • 3 weeks later...

Balsamic is a character often found in wines with high volatile acidity, particularly Italian wines. I actually enjoy it when it's subtle. Of course, it can be over the top in some wines . . .

Does anyone have any favorite wines that contain this aroma or flavor?

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... I've also seen the word diesel for riesling.

"Diesel" is a new word to me for what I know as petroleum or (different term, same point) petrolatum (Vaseline™), the familiar signature of wines benevolently affected by Botrytis cinerea before picking. Among all this strange-sounding smell language, that metaphor seems unusually apt, and widely supported by tasters.

Once sensitized, you'll likely spot it with ease. It's not limited to Rieslings; botrytized wines show the same component with other varietals, such as those used in Sauternes and Barsac.

(Just a couple days ago at a blind tasting of 2002 GC red Burgundies we were treated in sequence to barnyard, Brett, mercaptans, and -- in one case -- curry spices. And to top it off, we had our wallets lightened memorably in the process. ...)

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I don't remember the Monty Python routine, but how about the James Thurber cartoon caption?

"It's a naive domestic Burgundy without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption."

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I don't remember the Monty Python routine, but how about the James Thurber cartoon caption?

"It's a naive domestic Burgundy without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption."

Oh yeah, that's a good'un! (Longtime Thurber fan here.)

You can read the text of the Python routine here. Not as effective as hearing Eric Idle speak it, but it'll give you the general drift. :smile:

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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?

If I had to write about as many wines as Robert Parker, I sure as hell would be looking through the thesaurus for a few extra adjectives. It's a repetitive exercise writing about wine, but some variation is surely necessary to maintain one's sanity.

James

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  • 2 years later...
What does the term balsamic convey in a wine review?

Resinous. As in balsam of Tolu, Canada balsam, balsamic vinegar.

(I first encountered balsam as a resinous adhesive in a tincture form, used to attach cover glass to microscope slides in the chemistry sets so popular in the rash of "science education" that swept the US for some years after Sputnik. Will probably never forget that plant-resin smell, and it seems apt sometimes for wine.)

Edited to add: Correction! I just looked up balsamic vinegar out of curiosity, and at least one authority says that particular idiom came from the ancient "balm" (as in healthful medicine) which is a variant word for balsam. Vinegar does have some medicinal history. Learn something new every day! (Thanks, Mary.) Still I always had the impression wood aging puts some sap into balsamic vinegar too, making the term maybe doubly apt?

Also, Greek retsina wine is named for the resin that came to flavor it (originally by accident, I understand); I haven't tasted retsina but would guess it might qualify as "balsamic."

Edited by MaxH (log)
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What does the term balsamic convey in a wine review?

Resinous. As in balsam of Tolu, Canada balsam, balsamic vinegar.

(I first encountered balsam as a resinous adhesive in a tincture form, used to attach cover glass to microscope slides in the chemistry sets so popular in the rash of "science education" that swept the US for some years after Sputnik. Will probably never forget that plant-resin smell, and it seems apt sometimes for wine.)

Edited to add: Correction! I just looked up balsamic vinegar out of curiosity, and at least one authority says that particular idiom came from the ancient "balm" (as in healthful medicine) which is a variant word for balsam. Vinegar does have some medicinal history. Learn something new every day! (Thanks, Mary.) Still I always had the impression wood aging puts some sap into balsamic vinegar too, making the term maybe doubly apt?

Also, Greek retsina wine is named for the resin that came to flavor it (originally by accident, I understand); I haven't tasted retsina but would guess it might qualify as "balsamic."

I don't know, Max, I would assume the author would just mean the wines shares some characteristics with balsamic vinegar, which I don't think of as particularly resinous.

Intense, concentrated, maybe over-extracted. That sort of thing.

I wouldn't use "balsamic" if I were trying to say a wine had pine or resin tastes. I would use "resinous" or "Piney". The smell of balsam would be a pretty obscure tasting note in the modern world. When's the last time you saw a balsam pillow?

Hard to say, though, without a usage example.

Was it a particular review, Mary, which caused you to ask?

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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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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:

Brettanomyces is a non-spore forming genus of yeast in the family Saccharomycetaceae, and is often colloquially referred to as "Brett". ...

For some when it's done right it add to the complexity...you obviously don't like it...then stay away from Spain...

I might add that with Brett

you get horse $hit

Cow $hit

Pig $hit

I love the horse $hit... but that's my prefrence...

Edited by Don Giovanni (log)
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The smell of balsam would be a pretty obscure tasting note in the modern world.

-- so far has public science education declined, I guess :-) ... I will say that what I first picked up in balsam is not uncommon in other scents, especially things aged in wood.

But also curious about where this term has appeared in wine descriptions.

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Was it a particular review, Mary, which caused you to ask?

Not a particular review at the moment, although I have seen it used frequently by Parker in the Wine Advocate, and by Laube in Wine Spectator. It was a question posed elsewhere, which got me to thinking that I have begun avoiding the term myself because so many people immediately associate it with cheap balsamic vinegar. To me, the phrase balsamic connotes inky, resiny, woody esters such as one would find in a very expensive balsamic vinegar--enjoyable, mouth-watering esters and volatility. Many fine Italian wines have volatile acidity (V.A.) of this type. But V.A. notes can vary widely, from deep, intriguing notes like this to some pretty blatant acetone (polish remover).

So I think the phrase balsamic has a purpose, but perhaps it's becoming diluted by the sea of cheap vinegars on the market? Interesting how the food choices available to us can affect our language and perceptions in this way.

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Not a particular review at the moment, although I have seen it used frequently by Parker in the Wine Advocate, and by Laube in Wine Spectator.  It was a question posed elsewhere, which got me to thinking that I have begun avoiding the term myself because so many people immediately associate it with cheap balsamic vinegar.  To me, the phrase balsamic connotes inky, resiny, woody esters such as one would find in a very expensive balsamic vinegar--enjoyable, mouth-watering esters and volatility.  Many fine Italian wines have volatile acidity (V.A.) of this type.  But V.A. notes can vary widely, from deep, intriguing notes like this to some pretty blatant acetone (polish remover). 

So I think the phrase balsamic has a purpose, but perhaps it's becoming diluted by the sea of cheap vinegars on the market?  Interesting how the food choices available to us can affect our language and perceptions in this way.

I was thinking something similar. The wide spectrum of Balsamic Vinegars, not to mention the possible confusion with Balsam, makes it a not very good term.

Perhaps for foodies who have had actual Balsamic vinegar; but, most of the cheap Balsamic Vinegars on the market are just slightly richer wine vinegars. And the flavor of those are not really things I would find appealing when associated with a wine.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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... Interesting how the food choices available to us can affect our language and perceptions in this way.

Like what happened to "truffle" in the 1980s. When fewer people heard about it from cooking sources like the Joy of Cooking* as chocolate truffles also were gaining popularity. (And production of real black truffles had been gradually declining too.)

--

*Charming anecdote in a popular edition had a nearly deaf grocer. Asked if he had any truffles he answered philosophically, "Yes, but who doesn't?"

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  • 6 months later...
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:

Brettanomyces is a non-spore forming genus of yeast in the family Saccharomycetaceae, and is often colloquially referred to as "Brett". ...

I love the horse $hit... but that's my preference...

I never really understood what "barnyard" meant until I was tasting Moulin a Vents in Beaujolais... I have decided I don't care for it. Hay, wood, dirt, even sweaty horse okay, but I draw the line at $hit. Or something primal in me does, and says "that ain't for eating, dollface."

Edited by et alors (log)

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  • 1 month later...
i just read this one today : gun powder smoke  :blink:

I see the deep problem there: Ambiguity. (Does it mean black powder, which everyone has smelled who has ever set off or been near fireworks, and is sulfurous, sort of volcanic; or does it mean the smokeless powder used in modern firearms? Given the word "smoke," I'd guess the former.) That means a slightly eggy, sulfurous smell, I think combining H2S and SO2 (the two usual, very different, sulfur odors frequently found in some wines) because black powder gives off much of its combustion products as solids, including sulfides, in finely divided form (aka "smoke") and they affect the smell.

Someone who'd think of such a descriptor likely either likes fireworks, or has been around reproduction old black-powder arms, or else (like me) has worked on professional fireworks crews. (One old-fashioned manual-reload show makes anyone an expert on the smell of gunpowder smoke!)

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