In my August 19, 2020, blog I discussed what’s referred to in the world of wine as “wine tasting descriptors.” These are the aromas and tastes you get when you smell or taste your wine. Today I want to discuss two more descriptors: vanilla and earthy.
When we produce wine, we intentionally age the wine in oak barrels in order to add flavors and palate appeal to the wine. Depending on what type of wine we are aging, we might choose neutral barrels and just a few oak staves, or we may use new American Oak or old French Oak barrels. In any of these cases the wood acts as a seasoning agent to add flavor to the wine. The flavors come mainly from the toasting process when the barrels are being made. The process releases a huge amount of aroma compounds into the wine. The amount released depends on the level of toasting.
Vanilla is one of the most common descriptors used in wine tasting notes. Here is an example of a tasting note:
Nose: Intense, concentrated, black currants, vanilla, smokey, rich, leathery.
Palate: Rich, medium-bodied, firm yet supple tannins, vivid and energetic acidity and black fruit- wow!
Finish: Concentrated, long and firm finish.
These were the tasting notes for a 100-point 1961 Chateau Latour, written by a wine analyst in 2012.
Wine writers use the descriptor “earthy” in many different ways. The term typically means wine aromas or flavors that smell or taste of the earth, a forest floor or as mushrooms. Other descriptions to define earthy are barnyard, wet wool, mineral and tar.
When you read the term earthy in a wine’s tasting notes don’t take it as a negative term. It can be very positive for some wines, especially old-world wines where it adds to a wine’s complexity.
If the earthy tones are subtle, they can be regarded as a welcome addition to a wine’s aroma, particularly in more full-bodied reds. It is also positive in some Pinot Noir and Syrah wines. One important point to remember is this: if the earthy smells overpower the expected fruit aromas and smell like wet cardboard then the wine could be corked.
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Look Forward To These Happy Things:
Upcoming LEX 530 Events!
Oktoberfest Dinner – Tuesday, September 22, 2020 – with Elkhart’s Iechyd Da Brewing Company
Artisian Wine Dinner in Partnership with LEX 530 – Wednesday, October 7, 2020 – held at Artisan
Special Guest Winemaker Wine Dinner – Friday, October 23, 2020
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – Friday, November 20, 2020
Important Wine Holidays
September 18 – International Grenache Day
November 7 – International Merlot Day
November 12 – International Tempranillo Day
November 18 – International Zinfandel Day
December 4 – Cabernet Franc Day
December 20 – National Sangria Day
December 31 – National Champagne Day