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Brad Ballinger

Yet another head-scratching wine descriptor

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Every Thursday, the Star Tribune newspaper of the Twin Cities runs its James Beard Award-winning "Taste" section. There is usually a wine column and tasting notes of a handful of wines written by an entertainment lawyer who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. I find the feature articles informative (and they'd be more so if there was more space devoted), but the tasting notes of certain wines baffles me more often than not.

Today, there was a note for a Kuleto Syrah from Napa Valley. It included the phrase "aromas of bloody iron." The author is not a Brit, so I can rule out "bloody" as his personal opinion about iron. But how many people, I wonder, have smelled iron that has enough blood on it to be considered bloody iron? Or is bloody a color of the iron that has gone through some oxidation? If blood qua blood, is it human blood, steak blood, some other kind of blood? How is bloody iron different from writing "aromas of blood, iron..."? At least, the latter I can understand.

And, this wine was rated with four stars, the writer's top rating. I think if I smelled blood in wine, it would be a turn off. It certainly would be if I tasted it, but there was nothing of that sort in this tasting note.


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

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Bloody iron is a poor choice of words, at best. Is the taster picking out two descriptors from the circle of adjectives so widely used and abused? Or is it the color of oxidized iron, hence, a rusty, metallic smell?

Can you give us the writer's email address? Or a URL for the article?

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It's an intersting descriptor! I'm guessing it's the same aromas of well hung meat especially vension, which I have noticed in Syrah before...I like the description :huh:

Stephen


Edited by SBonner (log)

"who needs a wine list when you can get pissed on dessert" Gordon Ramsey Kitchen Nightmares 2005

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I think it is a fine descriptor. To me it invokes the iron-rich flavor you get when you suck on a paper cut. Fresh blood tastes like iron, amongst other stuff. "Bloody iron" invokes all of that.

Next time you get a paper cut, give it a taste and you'll see what I mean.

And as a wine descriptor, it totally works... there are wines out there whose aromas have reminded me of bloody meat...


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Blood has Iron in it (unless one has a deficiency--anemia etc).

The taste of blood (my own via paper cuts etc) has a metallic note.

(I am sure that greatest of all blood tasters Vlad the Impaler would recognize this immediately! he once gave a young scullery maid's blood a ninety eight!!!))

Blood also has a definite consistancy.

Syrah does produce gamey, minerally wines that have a thicker than water consistancy.

One also gets an irony/metallic flavor note from well aged beef (there is certainly blood present in a good steak (less one prefers one's porterhouse "well done").

I like the descriptor--"I know what he's trying to communicate."

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Brad, many Cornas wines have aromas of blood and iron/metal, so I don't think the descriptor is that far off. If you've never had a young Verset Cornas, you should try something like the '98 or '99...I imagine you'll understand the blood descriptor then.

Marshall

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may or may not be to some folks' tastes, but i think it works. i picked up that very note (happily so) in a cab franc the other day. wrote it down as "rusty-iron earth," and probably translated into something more reader-friendly, but kudos for going for what it evoked.

i assume in either case, it's an oxidized-iron note with a bit of salinity or minerality, which could taste like a rusty backhoe, or blood, or both.

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may or may not be to some folks' tastes, but i think it works.  i picked up that very note (happily so) in a cab franc the other day. wrote it down as "rusty-iron earth," and probably translated into something more reader-friendly, but kudos for going for what it evoked.

i assume in either case, it's an oxidized-iron note with a bit of salinity or minerality, which could taste like a rusty backhoe, or blood, or both.

I'm speechless.

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may or may not be to some folks' tastes, but i think it works.  i picked up that very note (happily so) in a cab franc the other day. wrote it down as "rusty-iron earth," and probably translated into something more reader-friendly, but kudos for going for what it evoked.

i assume in either case, it's an oxidized-iron note with a bit of salinity or minerality, which could taste like a rusty backhoe, or blood, or both.

I'm speechless.

Well, not quite. :wink:

Best, Jim


www.CowanCellars.com

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It is an odd choice of words. That said, I think I can deduce where he might be coming from in describing "aromas of bloody iron."

Iron, especially iron that has had any weathering to it, has a certain earthy/metallic scent, I think we would all agree. But I think we also agree that the "iron" part isn't the puzzling part. Well, anyone who has been around a lot of blood can tell you it has a "coppery" odor that is quite distinct from the smell of iron. Perhaps this is what the author was trying to describe?

Regardless, it does seem like a pointlessly florid way to describe the bouquet of a wine (not that this is unusual for wine writing).


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Rusty backhoe! I have to add that to my personal wine lexicon.

there are days i'd like to fully unload my personal notes on what a lot of things taste like.

I'm speechless.

there's lots of descriptors that by all reckoning should scare away a lot of drinkers who actually would enjoy the wine in the glass. all those fine Burgundies described with notes of barnyard, cow ... um ... output, dank forest, &c. or syrahs with bacon fat and burnt rubber? or Bordeaux with pencil lead and cigar box?

the case could be made that this is all a little exercise in subjective noun-packed poetry. but that's too philosophical a topic for me to handle on a Thursday ...

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Blood has Iron in it (unless one has a deficiency--anemia etc).

The taste of blood (my own via paper cuts etc) has a metallic note.

Even at my worst (anemic state, that is) there was still some iron in my blood.

Anyway, bloody iron is a distinctive scent I have been familiar with for a long time. Maybe it's a female thing.

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I think its a good descriptor, I taste both blood and iron in wines from the Rasteau, so "bloody iron" makes sense. Well, as much sense as pain grillé, dandelion dew, and sweaty leather...

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What on gods earth would make me want to drink something that tastes of bloody iron? 

jb

That's almost exactly what a friend said to me the first time she drank a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. (replace 'bloody iron' with 'cat wee') Her facial expression as she blotted her tongue with a paper towel after rinsing her mouth out with water was priceless.

:laugh:

Even though I can pinpoint that 'bloody iron' descriptor in my taste memory, I don't think I've ever tasted blood in a wine, and I'll side with Jean in that I don't think I'd want to.

On a side note: Sangiovese in Latin "sanguis jovis" means “blood of Jupiter.” Just thought I'd toss that into the conversation. :smile:

Marshall, welcome to eGullet.


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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On a side note: Sangiovese in Latin "sanguis jovis" means “blood of Jupiter.” Just thought I'd toss that into the conversation.  :smile:

Cool. I didn't know that. :cool:

And on the subject of cat pee, for those who haven't already visited it, we have the

Terrible Terms, for otherwise fine wines . . . thread.


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Wine descriptors are often used to reflect "impressions" or what a wine "evokes" and should not be taken quite so literally.

That is the taster in question is describing an impression or an evocative note or sensation.

Obviously the Syrah is not literally equivalent to a glass of "Blood."

also--

most of what we experience in wine is "smell" which is the major part of "taste"--for eg in many wines I have impressions of "road tar" --this is an element of many Italian barolos etc.--that is I have never actually tasted road tar (maybe once when I was three years old-I don't remember!) but I have smelled it! Also along with the sensation of road tar-I am getting flavors of fruit-of cherries, dried plums etc.--I am not actually drinking a wine that is only "tasting" of road tar.

This is why a wine can have notes of cat piss yet be quite enjoyable! The other flavors offset or work with that note--lemmons, grapefruit etc.

great Burgundy often does have notes of "shit" and "decay"--these are olfactory and comingle with other more pleasant flavors like cherries and black fruits and cedar and vanilla etc

This is why wine is so amazing a drink! It has mystified scientists with its complexity and ability to "evoke" a mind boggling array of tastes and odors and sensory pleasure.

Look at pheremones--most are not particularly "pleasant" but boy are we attracted to them!

we encounter this complexity in other foods--calf's liver also tastes of blood and iron (no brainer there) and oysters can have a "metallic" note to them.

It would be interesting if Brad would provide the complete tasting note for the syrah (if there is more).

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It would be interesting if Brad would provide the complete tasting note for the syrah (if there is more).

Google Star Tribune Kuleto Syrah and you'll get it.

:smile:


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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After reading the whole tasting note, it appears that this is one of those wines that brings out the literary tendencies of some reviewers. I personally haven't ever tasted a "brooding" syrah. The wine sounds like a character from a Thomas Hardy novel. The other notes in the same article are more descriptive and less flowery so I guess this was probably the last wine tasted. You know how it gets at the end of the night :biggrin:

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Wow. You post something, leave town for a long weekend, return home, and find a good disucssion. I'll have to do that more often. :laugh:

For all those who commented on the iron taste of one's own blood, I get that. I might have prefered iron-rich blood as a descriptor, or even blood and iron as two separate descriptors. But "bloody iron" still does nothing for me -- especially since the descriptor is for an aroma and not a taste. I've used aroma descriptors of metal, iron, mineral, raw meat, roast meat, dried meat -- all of which I think people above have said were similar enough to bloody iron. But I just found this one descriptor a bit odd for an aroma.

Anyway, thanks for the discussion.


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

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Okay. In the interest of always seeking to learn more, I conducted a search of this forum for the word "blood." There were two pages of results, and I had one of those "foot in mouth" moments when I saw that one of the returned threads was one titled "An evening of Rhone wines" (or something like that) started by me. But the word "blood" in that thread was followed by the word oranges and was used in a tasting note for a Pierre Bise sticky.

I found blood being used to describe color. I get that. I found it used as a flavor descriptor a handful of times. But then it usually referred to meat blood. I found it used as an aroma descriptor three times:

Florida Jim:

1999 J. Drouhin, Clos de Vougeot:

Initially closed on the nose but opens to that wonderful sauvage and blood smell and flavor that is this appellation’s signature; restrained and yet it has a latent power (think Hendrix doing slow blues), balanced, concentrated and still polished despite its rustic leanings; good persistence. A paradox of a wine – and that’s why it is so damn good. Once again this ‘second tier” producer rises above the common perception.

And two from bills:

1995 Jaboulet Crozes Hermitage Dom. Thalabert – I have a long and fond association with Thalabert, but I’ve been ‘off’ it a bit in the 90s. Perhaps recent performance just doesn’t compare well with vintages like the outstanding 1978 we had at lunch last month. Bright colour, excellent Rhone nose of blood and pepper, the latter continuing on palate. Smooth, the tannins there but largely resolved. It is now drinking near the plateau, where it should stay for some years.

1990 Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino – I’ve been drinking my way through a case of this since release and it changes just about every time I taste it. It went through a lean acidic phase, then miraculously the fruit came back. It has been drinking well for several years, yet this bottle showed much more tannin than recent tastings. I found a little blood/iron in the nose, a bit of browning at the edges, and lots of acidity to go with the surprising tannins, the finish a bit hot and raisiny. Not the best bottle I’ve tasted and I look forward to revisiting this.

This last one even had "blood/iron."

The lesson for me is not that I'm confounded by blood as a descriptor for flavor or aroma. But I will say it makes more sense for flavor than aroma -- at least to me, and we're all different. No, the lesson for me is that I will look for this blood/iron combo going forward. I don't see myself using it in a tasting note since I think other words can be more descriptive to a broader audience, but I'm on a mission to see if the next wine I have that has a roast meat, seasoned cast iron, metal minerailty, charred beef also has something different that I'd call blood.


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

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