Top 10 ludicrous but true wine descriptors

2 – Cat’s pee

Cat peeThis is another one associated with (Marlborough) Sauvignon Blanc thiols, though also Riesling, Colombard, Sémillon, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It’s often euphemistically referred to as ‘boxwood’; it’s not though, it’s cat’s pee. The thiol in question is 4-mercapto-4-methylpentan-2-one, or 4MMP, which also has the more user-friendly name of the ‘cat ketone’.

As well as being found in Sauvignon Blanc – and blackcurrants (which explains why the descriptor ‘blackcurrant leaf’ is often used for Sauvignon Blanc) – this thiol is also found in actual cat urine. The smell merely depends on concentration: at low levels, they have a pleasant fruity odour, but this becomes more ‘feline’ at higher levels.

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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