Tasting Note "Synonyms"

Been checking CellarTracker and some professional reviews on retailer’s sites (K&L, Hart Davis Hart, etc.) and noticed there are probably different descriptives used for what might be the same flavor / sensation on the palate. For instance, I often see either “menthol” or “eucalyptus” when talking about the nose or finish of red wines. As an ex-smoker, menthol is what it seems like to me but I could see where eucalyptus would cover the same perception. Has anyone else noticed this? Here are the few that I’ve wondered about:

menthol = eucalyptus

dried cranberry = pomegranite

(white) pepper = cinnamon = allspice

Granted, the last one might be 3 that are less interchangeable, but hopefully you see what I mean. Are there others? Do you agree or not? I’m curious as making notes is becoming more important to my cellaring habits.

for me eucalyptus = camphor, cardamom, menthol, Vicks VapoRub.

Pain grille = oak
toasty = oak
sexy = oak
caramel = oak
liquid viagra = oak
butter = oak

see, these descriptors don’t lead anywhere good!

So both in English and French, those words translate to oak, eh? [snort.gif]

Hold on Markus - I have wine that has notes of caramel: 1979 Domaine de Besombes Singla Cuvée Amèdée Rivesaltes. It was like liquified caramel covered pecan pie. Love it! It’s my favorite winter desert wine.

A wine flavor wheel

Nice. How does “soy sauce” fall under CARAMEL though? [rofl.gif]

Apparently, I use the term “crunchy” frequently, and it never fails to confuse folks. I almost always use it to describe a bright, acidic red burg with a lot of red fruited characteristics. For some reason the combination of red fruit and acidity makes me think of biting into a red delicious apple (even if the flavor profile doesn’t match).

It makes perfect sense to me, as I’ve used it a few times with the same meaning, but always as a modifier to the fruit (such as “crunchy red fruit”). For me, it is a synonym to crisp or crispy, which I use more frequently.

Menthol is a mint derivative, which I find quite distinct from eucalyptus. It’s not uncommon to get both in California cabs, though.

Likewise, white pepper (which is not uncommon in syrah) is quite different to me than cinnamon or allspice (which I think most often come from oak).

But I can definitely see how cranberry and pomegranate might be used interchangeably, since they’re both on the red-fruit end of the scale and both have high acidity.

There is so little correlation between the descriptors in different people’s notes that I don’t lay great weight on them. (I don’t have great confidence in my own aroma and flavor labeling.) I know a few people who have a knack for articulating things that make me say, “Yes! That’s what I was trying to identify.” But those people are few and far between in my experience. Most people don’t really give that much thought to those terms and just write what comes to mind first, without reflecting if it’s really something else (cloves versus cinnamon; raspberry versus blackberry, or whatever).

Moreover, different people have markedly different sensitivities to different chemical elements, be it TCA or the pyroxenes that you give you a green element in cabernet and cab franc. Just think of the range of views on 2004 Burgundies!

There is a noticeable difference in certain “pepper” tastes. Zinfandel’s black pepper is certainly different from any other American red wine I’ve had.

Never thought about using clove instead of cinnamon, but looking back it would have been more appropriate in some case.

I don’t smell TCA as much as feel it on the sides and tip of my tongue. However, a relative or two can smell that “wet newspaper” odor across the room.

Menthol - Urinal cake

Urinal cake is my new favorite tasting descriptor. Very evocative – unfortunately only to 50% of the population.

Interesting. I’ve never heard of anyone saying they tasted it.

Not exactly tasting it, but feeling it as a tingly almost burning sensation.

Actually, Butter = bacteria Poop

I’m one of those people… almost obsessive about it. I have to identify what aromas are coming out of the glass and I need to determine what’s going on the palate and be able to articulate it. It’s almost a sport for me.

I’ve found that the best conversations about wines I have are with people who have made an effort to connect what they taste to objective facts about the wine. We may describe it differently, but the objective facts of winemaking form a point of reference by which we can understand each other.

Some examples:

Green pepper, grass, jalapeno, mint, asparagus = pyrazines
grapefruit, citrus pith, passionfruit, gooseberry = thiols
white pepper (e.g. syrah, gruner) = rotundone
dog fur, wet dog, band-aid, animal, etc. = 4-ethylphenol (a component of Brettanomyces).
clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, vanilla, toast, caramel = maillard flavors from oak aging (or non-oak flavors from aged Hunter Valley Semillon).
butter, buttered popcorn = diacetyl and other by-products of malolactic
brioche, sour cream, marshmallow, yeast extract, cheese rind = leesiness (lees stirring or aging sur lie)
saffron, ginger, honeysuckle = botrytis influence
bruised apple, fig, bruised pear, bitter almond = acetaldehyde / oxidation.
pool toy, shower curtain, freshly-cut garden hose, freshly-opened can of tennis balls, petrol = trimethyl-dihydronaphthalene (TDN)
linalool, hand-soap, rose petal, lychee, tropical fruit = terpenes.
bubble gum, jolly rancher, confected fruit, banana = carbonic maceration / whole cluster fermentation

Aw, c’mon. You’re taking all the FUN out of this!

Engineers and chemists - bursting creative bubbles since the beginning of science.