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Wine

10 strange but true wine descriptors

What do cat’s pee, sea spray and horse hair have in common? They might sound like ingredients in a witchy potion, but they’re actually all aromas you could find wafting from your wine glass. Sounds strange, but it’s true and there’s more. Check out the top ten:

  1. Cat’s pee: Sauvignon Blanc lovers might be familiar with this one. It’s particularly apparent in cool climate examples and it’s not a negative description, so don’t let it put you off your next glass of Savvy.
  2. Kerosene: This can be found in aged Rieslings and comes from the compound 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihyronaphthalene (TDN). Whether it’s a desirable trait or not comes down to personal taste.
  3. Wet stone: Take a whiff of Semillon, Riesling or Chardonnay and you might pick up this character. It describes minerality and is a savoury term, so it means you’re sniffing a great food matching wine.
  4. Sea spray: If your Chardonnay is transporting your senses to the beach, you’ve scored yourself a complex, well-made expression of the variety.
  5. Baked bread: There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread, even if it is coming from your glass of Sparkling wine. It’s a sign of secondary fermentation so it’s desirable in Sparkling and Chardonnay, but watch out if you smell it in other wines because it could be a fault.
  6. Struck match: While sulphur dioxide is a common wine additive, if you can smell struck match, the sulphur dioxide has been poorly handled. This fault can also be described as burnt rubber or mothballs.
  7. Sweaty saddle: Brettanomyces, or Brett, is a type of yeast that can, when used at low levels, can add positive attributes to a wine. However, the perception of excessive levels is a fault.
  8. Horse hair: Continuing the horsy theme, this is another description of Brett.
  9. Tractor shed: More precisely, the oil on the dirt that’s leaked from a tractor – another Brett descriptor.
  10. Mousy: Another term to describe a fault, this time from bacteria, mousy is interesting because it’s an aroma that only certain people can pick up. So if you can pick up a scent of rodent, you’re one of the chosen few!

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