Top 10 ludicrous but true wine descriptors

1 – Sweaty armpit

Sweaty armpitMuch research has been conducted on that most mercurial of wine grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, which seems to express vastly different aromatic profiles depending on ripeness levels, on which terroir it has been grown and what kind of yeast its juice has been fermented with (around 400 of the estimated 1,000 volatile flavour compounds found in wine are produced by the yeast).

With Sauvignon Blanc it’s all about mercaptans (or thiols), of which 3-mercaptohexyl acetate (3MHA) is a biggy. As well as producing the passionfruit aroma associated with especially ripe Sauvignon, this compound also creates a distinct smell of sweaty armpit.

It’s especially present in the Sauvignon Blancs of Marlborough in New Zealand, thanks to the region’s high UV light environment. Even the winemakers in this part of the world use this descriptor – and encourage the development of the aroma.

3 Responses to “Top 10 ludicrous but true wine descriptors”

  1. Anthony Rose says:

    This comment was deleted from the revised version as Anthony Hanson realised that what he’d been describing was brett and so, not surprisingly didn’t want to perpetuate the misleading association. Much the same occurred in Australia when luminaries such as James Halliday discovered that the leathery character of Hunter Valley Shiraz previously described as ‘sweaty saddles’ was in fact closer to blazing saddles than umami.

  2. Rita Erlich says:

    Thanks for all of that. But I’d question one thing, under point 10 : horsiness is not really the same as horse manure. Horsiness is the smell of clean horses, animal, but not manure. It’s a smell that also appears in violets. Some violets (not all) have horsy notes, so do some black truffles. I’d love to know what the chemical compound is.

  3. Pamela says:

    Of note, the term on slide 6 should be ‘Foxy’, not Foxes. Its a wild, musky odor that is prevalent in varieties like Concord. I think ‘Foxy’ fits the smell well 😉

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