Understanding Wine Descriptors – Part 2

In this post I’ve listed some most common faults that one may come across occasionally in wine literature, although, being faults, they hardly appear in tasting notes. Once again, this is an attempt to present the flaws in as simple language as possible without venturing into the science and technicalities behind them:

  • Appley/Sherry like – A common fault that is a result of heavy oxygen contact. Imagine smelling leftover cut apples.
  • Cloudy – When wines (mostly whites) appear hazy because they were not properly clarified before bottling.
  • Corked/Cork taint – A massive issue that is the basis of the New World efforts to popularize alternative wine closures, especially the screwcap. A musty smell masks all the basic aromas of the wine. Imagine smelling a wet cardboard.
  • Brett – Short for Brettanomyces. There are many ways this fault is described based on the level of contamination the meaning of which are pretty self explanatory like horsey (imagine walking into a horse stable), mousy, band-aidy, cheesy, barnyardy etc.
  • Buttery – Generally a positive outcome of ‘Malo’ (see previous post) but occasionally higher levels can interfere with varietal flavours.
  • Oxidised – A result of extended contact of oxygen with the wine. In appearance, most distinct in white wines which turn brown. Smells appley or sherry like. Heavily oxidised wines will taste flat.
  • Slimey – When the wine’s texture is particularly viscous or fatty. Sometimes can also be described as ropiness of the wine.
  • Spritzy – Fizziness or effervescence noticed in wines that are expected to be absolutely still. A byproduct of micro-organisms feeding on nutrients in the wine after bottling.
  • Sulphur taints – Sulphur acts as a preservative in wines but excess amounts can result in smells of spent matches (fireworks smoke on a Diwali night???). Another sulphur related fault often described as rotten eggs smell.
  • Vinegary – Also referred to as VA (volatile acidity). In simple terms it means that the acid components are too obvious on the nose rather than on the palate.

These are the most common descriptors one is likely to encounter although there are numerous other flaws that can be observed in bottled wines which experts often relate to various intricacies of wine science. But the saying “you don’t have to know how an internal combustion engine works to drive a car”, is also applicable when it comes to enjoying wine!

Cheers,

Niladri

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