Often times wine reviews, when describing a particular wine, use terms that seem improbable if not impossible. Descriptors such as wet dog, barnyard, cat pee, asparagus and bubblegum are used. Such, seemingly odd aromas, are in fact detectable and in certain wines desirable. A wines aromas come from a combination of factors: the grape variety, the winemaking process, fermentation and aging.
The aromas of banana, pear drop and bubblegum are commonly found in the Gamay-based wines of Beaujolais, particularly Beaujolais Nouveau. These aromas result from a winemaking technique known as carbonic maceration. Although this process was mainly used for red wine production in Beaujolais, the southernmost area of Burgundy, it has become increasingly common around the world, employed for youthful, easy-drinking, short-lived wine.
Tobacco and cigar box scents are a result of oak aging. This desirable characteristic is typically found in good quality full-bodied red wines from Bordeaux, Australia and the Napa Valley. Toast, butterscotch, diacetyl (butter), vanilla and caramel are also aromas that result from oak contact during fermentation or aging. These characteristics are present in oak-influenced Chardonnay.
Wine produced from the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety, especially the bright distinct wines of New Zealand, are frequently described as having the aroma of jalapeno, green beans, green peppers, fresh cut grass and perhaps “best” of all, cat pee and litter box. Hmm- thankfully all aromas are not confirmed by taste.
The presence of the “oily” smell of gas or petrol is expected in German Rieslings and certain Australian examples. It is indicative of a good quality aged wine.
Herbal aromas such as lavender,wild thyme and rosemary - some of my favorites - are typically found in red wines from southern France, specifically the areas of Faugères, Corbières and Minervois where these native plants grow. These aromas are collectively known as “garrique”.
So - about that wet dog. Wet dog, like the musty aromas of wet basement and moldy newspaper, is found in faulty wines, those affected by the chemical compound TCA (trichloroanisole). These wines are commonly referred to as “corked”.
Taking the time to smell a wine is important, not pretentious. If you don’t you will never know what you are missing.
Wines may be purchased at select MLLC locations and private wine boutiques.
D'Arenberg The Money Spider Roussanne, 2012, Australia, PRICE : $ 21.99
This dry medium-full bodied white wine is made from the Roussane grape variety, a variety indigenous to the Rhone Valley in France. There has been a revival of interest in this vine and it has covered significant ground in respect to consumer recognition. An elegant wine , the Money Spider is soft and rich with lush tropical fruit, peaches, poached pear and almond paste.
Gabbiano Promessa Pinot Grigio, 2013, Italy, PRICE: $13.99
This Pinot Grigio, is from north-east Italy, an area known for quality Pinot Grigio, this wine is light-bodied, crisp and dry with stone fruit, fresh pear and Macintosh apple.