Top 10 weird wine tastes
From the sweet tinge of bubblegum to the metallic tang of blood, the world of wine is home to some less than ordinary tastes and aromas.
Recently an Oxford professor said the theory that humans can decipher just five tastes was outdated and needed to be revised.
Speaking to the drinks business, Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, said far from the five commonly held tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and recently umami, there are actually as many as 20 different tastes.
These include fat, metallic, calcium, astringency and hotness, however those in the world of wine might argue that there are hundreds more.
While typical wine tastes might include blackcurrant, raspberry, cherry and strawberry, for the more finely trained palate, a great many more flavours are distinguishable, as this list proves.
For some of the world of wines more unusual tastes, scroll through….
Typical of Gamay from Beaujolais, and lighter red wines, the smell of bubblegum is commonly attributed to carbonic maceration in red wines, whereby whole grapes are fermented in a carbon dioxide rich environment prior to crushing.
Wine writer and author Tom Stevenson has said of this aroma: “Should never be allowed in a fine wine and a boring character in even the cheapest plonk.”
Nevertheless, carbonic maceration is an effective technique for creating softy and fruity red wines for early consumption.
Nail Polish Remover
A potentially unpleasant trait, the smell of nail polish remover is an indicator of Ethyl Acetate in a wine, a product of the oxidation of alcohol, and a compound that emerges as a wine turns into vinegar.
Commonly referred to as volatile acidity, or VA, it is widely viewed as a wine fault, but at low levels it can add complexity, and is often present in sweet wines such as Sauternes and Port.
Originating from the German word ‘petrole’, this aroma is associated with aged Rieslings, although it can also be present in younger wines, particularly Rieslings grown in relatively warm climes for this grape.
Although the smell of petrol in an old Riesling is prized among lovers of this grape, which has the potential to age for many decades, it is deemed unwelcome in young wines, with Michel Chapoutier, who makes Riesling in Alsace under the Schieferkopt label, even declaring the aroma a “mistake”.
The smell and taste of blood in a red wine, similar to that of a rare steak, or a ferrous character, is sometimes mentioned in tasting notes for reds, and commonly with the somewhat obscure Croatian grape Teran.
The variety, which is indigenous to Istria, yields wines which smell of fresh blood, pepper and mulberries. Indeed, Judith Burns from Croatian wine importer Pacta Connect comparing the best results to the aroma of a rare steak.
As previously reported by db, among the region’s best producers of this grape is Franc Arman and Piquentum.
A taste of rubber, particularly burning rubber, is an aroma associated – some believe unfairly – with the Pinotage grape of South Africa.
The association is not welcomed by producers of Pinotage, with reports of “a backlash in the last decade”, against the grape leading to “unsavoury labels like burnt rubber and bitterness”, according to Gavin Patterson, winemaker and director for Sumaridge Wines in Walker Bay.
Nowadays, one is more likely to hear the grape’s characters compared to roasted coffee, rather than cooked tyres.
Typically associated with cooler climate Australian Cabernets, the aroma of Eucalyptus, described by many as fresh, minty and medicinal, is believed to be caused by the presence of eucalyptol.
While there has been speculation that vines planted near to eucalyptus plants could absorb its flavour into grapes and subsequent wines, its more likely that its aroma is caused by a stray eucalyptus leaf entering the press or fermentation vessel.
The aroma of wet wool is often found in Chenin Blanc wines, particularly those produced in the Loire Valley, but can also appear in white Burgundy.
It is not a negative aroma and can enhance the flavour of a wine – although it should not be confused with ‘wet dog’, a descriptor sometimes used to suggest a wine fault such as TCA.
Horse / Farmyard
Brettanomyces is a form of yeast often known as “Brett” which at reasonable levels can enhance the flavour of a wine, particularly of young red wines.
However if it passes an acceptable threshold it can spoil a wine giving it a taste often likened to horse and animal sheds with a metallic edge.
This can dominate delicate grapes such as Pinot Noir, robbing the variety of its pretty aromas with a dominant fecal smell.
It make have been the reason why Anthony Hanson MW once wrote that red Burgundy “smells of shit”.
A banana aroma can appear in wines which have been fermented at excessively cool temperatures and, although not necessarily an unpleasant characteristic, it can mask varietal or site-derived characteristics.
In reds, one producer who favours a banana aroma is Georges du Boeuf in Beaujolais, who deliberately uses a yeast strain that exaggerates the aroma in his wines. Like the bubblegum character described above, banana flavours can arise from carbonic maceration.
The aroma of pencil lead is generally deemed a positive and complexing aroma commonly associated with aged fine red wines, particularly Bordeaux.
It is a scent typically seen in Cabernet Sauvignons from cooler vintages, and tends to emerge after several years ageing in bottle.