Weird wine terms 2 of 2

Second week of wacko wine descriptors. The obvious: some of this is concocted by wine writers to stand out from the “juicy, jammy, red and black fruits” cognoscente.

• Cat pee. Associated with sauvignon blanc/Sancere. It arises from natural sulfur compounds. When weak, sometimes called “lantana bush.” When strong, “blackcurrants.” When in the middle, “cat pee.” Oui, oui, Sancere cat pee is for me.

• Burnt rubber. Associated with syrah, also with South African wines. South Africans took umbrage when English critic used the descriptor. “We prefer that people use the term acrid rather than burnt rubber,” averred a spokesperson for Wines of South Africa. Current descriptor preferred by wineries for this nose note: “sun-dried tomatoes.”

• Farmyard. Associated with aged chianti; also kinder, gentler than “barnyard” used to describe earthy and vegetal undertones some pinot noirs develop in the bottle. Like many such terms, used in admiration or deploration, depending upon critic.

• Tar. Associated with nebbiola (Barolo/Barbaresco) and syrah—means aromas and flavors reminiscent of tar. Who eats tar to find out? Some claim it describes mix of meat and black pepper.

• Pencil shavings. Associated with cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot: hints of cedar or eucalyptus wood. Cigar box also associated with this nose nuance.

• Band-Aid. Smell associated with tempranillo and pinotage, usually means there is bit of brett (brettanomyces)—yeast usually considered a flaw, but also considered a plus by some when it only slightly influences the wine. Different folks, different strokes.

Call it any crazy thing you want. Enjoy.


• Sebeka Shiraz-Pinotage Cape Blend 2007. Jammy, fruit-forward; blackberry, cherry, shiraz spice, pinotage smokey earth (Band-Aid?); buttery palate. $9

• Selvapiana Chianti Rufina Riserva Bucerchiale 2006. Earthy, almost-farmyard nose; intense black cherry, dark chocolate, spice; silky tannins; decant. $33

• Azienda Pier Barbaresco Riserva Rio Sordo 2000. Brick color; roses, hint of tar nose (Piedmont nebbiola); soft, sour cherry palate, food-friendly acidity; decant several hours. $36