Top 10 ludicrous but true wine descriptors

4 – Onion skins

Onion skinMany bizarre descriptors associated with wine – rotten eggs, blocked drains, cooked vegetables – are the result of volatile sulphur compounds produced by a chemical reaction known as reduction. A particularly weird one is onion skins (sometimes garlic), produced by a sulphur compound called dimethyl disulphide.

Reduction is a tricky and frequently misunderstood term but it’s basically the opposite of oxidation, and the chemical reactions that it produce if not carefully controlled can be a wine’s undoing. Wines in a reductive state, if not stable, can be like an Pandora’s Box of funk.

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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