Wine by smell? Can you nail a terroir?

I’m very inexperienced relative to this board when it comes to burgundy and wine in general, but I think I can tell a Musigny when I smell it blind (80% or higher)…

I’m wondering what terroirs you can pick out by smell alone. What terroirs are so distinctive that you can guess
correctly where it came from (not who produced it)…

I should also note that Musigny is one of the very few wines that I can do this with… and my ability to taste and identify is probably much worse…

Also, for burgheads, if you have trouble with a vineyard, can you at least tell whether its Chambolle or Vosne, MSD or NSG? etc?

There are only two wines that jump out at me to the point where I can identify the region almost every time. New Zealand Sauv Blanc (mostly Marlborough region I suppose) has that unmistakeable gooseberry thing I can’t help but recognize (I call it gooseberry but to be honest have never tried a real gooseberry, but it seems the descriptor most used by reviewers for SB from NZ so that is what I assume is gooseberry). The second is Amarone, although I may guess a Ripasso Valpolicella for an Amarone and vice versa. Something about that raisiny amarena cherry I can’t miss. Everything else is pretty much wild ass guessing. [basic-smile.gif]

In general I can’t do well with this at all. I might guess Vosne versus Chambolle (note the “might”!) but no way could I pick a Burgundy vineyard.

In California Syrah, I might have a chance on Rosella’s Vineyard (distinctive ruby red grapefruit) or 11 Confessions Vineyard (a pretty unusual monopole).

But in general, no.

When asked if he had ever confused Bordeaux with Burgundy, Harry Waugh replied, “Not since lunch.” I resemble that remark.

+1, if only more connoisseurs were as open.


Nothing has ever been written that speaks to the truth like this.
There are times you feel really cocky about recognizing things then your buddy pulls something out that totally stumps you. You guess a Sauvignon blanc that has been oaked is a Chardonnay or sometimes worse.

My local group had a blind Pomerol tasting many years ago. In addition to my Pomerol, I brought a Newton Merlot which I inserted at the end. There was some drunken discussion that led people to mistakenly think I had brought a Petrus, and people were drunk enough that as they each tasted it, they were considering whether it was Petrus. Certainly, no one was thinking California. When it got around to the group leader, he sniffed it and said “This is Newton Merlot.” I almost fell out of my chair.

His explanation was “I noticed the other day that Newton Merlot smells like a B-12 shot.”

He’s done this a few more times. A wine served totally blind that most of us thought was off, he said “No, it’s not off. It’s that typically funky horsey, leathery thing that St. Juliens get into in mid-life. I would guess it’s the 1982 Gruaud-Larose.” And again he was right.

Only those who have seen “L’Aile ou La Cuisse” will get this…

Belle robe vermeille, un peu violette, bel éclat. C’est un bordeaux, un grand bordeaux. Un peu de pourriture noble en suspension, ces impuretés descendent lentement. Ce vin a 23 ans, c’est un 53, une très grande année. Le vin, c’est la terre, celle-ci est légèrement graveleuse, c’est un médoc. Le vin, c’est aussi le soleil. Ce vin a profité d’une belle exposition sud-ouest, sur un coteau de bonne pente. C’est un saint-julien, Château Léoville Las Cases 1953.

Agree with these two and I’ll also add Carbonic Beaujolais to the list. Otherwise, I’m pretty useless based solely on nose.

Having been in a biweekly brown-bag group for 17 years, I can say, yes, sometimes. And those (rare) successes are etched in my memory while all the embarrassingly off-base guesses fade.

The only one I’m semi-confident on is red Bandol. Even the first time I smelled one, I knew I’d always be able to peg it.

if the lighting is good, I can usually tell red from white, but I can’t nail terroir.

Before or after he lost his senses?

Roald Diehl wrote a classic short story on blind tasting: “Taste”, featuring a serious wager and some remarkable “guessing”.


Since we have three cats, I’ve gotten pretty good at picking out certain sauvignon blancs.

Tokaji is pretty unique with its aromatic profile; I think the same about Pauillac, but there’s been more than one time when an older Napa Cab (blend) fooled me into thinking it was a Pauillac … so, maybe not so much. I’ll also nominate German Riesling as an easy one to peg.

I seem to with reasonable accuracy be able to pick out Meursault & Macon from a field W. Burgundies (Macon, Beaune, Puligny, Chassagne & Corton). With Red burgundy Volnay & Gevrey can also stand out … but vineyard by vineyard is beyond for me.

I can spot Mazis Chambertin a mile away and beyond that, not a single thing

I have an almost perfect record when guessing terrior. 100%

I don’t like to brag, but it’s true. I’m always wrong [highfive.gif]

So true, particularly with mature wines. Don and I have discussed plenty of times whether a particular blind, mature red is Bordeaux or Burgundy, even after tasting. We can usually at least come to a correct agreement on that, but to identify a specific vineyard? Not often and if correct, it’s usually an educated guess. I’m pretty good at identifying grape and origin in a broad sense with young wines by smell, but nailing it as specific as something such as Musigny is beyond my ability if truly blind.

I’ve seen guys do it with enough accuracy and consistency to know it can be done, unfortunately not by me though…