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Flavour references

Does the society (or community!) have a list of reference wines for some of the most popular flavour descriptors?

Not after anything fancy, just an easy way to sample a good reference for any I’m curious about. A guide that listed bacon/menthol/chocolate/plum/graphite etc. and gave a couple of ideas for each would be a lot of fun!


Decanter do something similar - tasting notes decoded. I thought there was an index but now it eludes me.

An example at this link, there are many more

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You might also find a “wine aroma wheel” useful. The original one was based on work at UC Davis, and is copyrighted by them, but if you use google, you will find a number of variants.

The claimed advantage of the wheel presention is that it gives a visual representation of the groups of flavours, and an indication how similar each one is to others. (Personally I find a tabular presentation works at least as well, but that’s just me.)

Here is more about the UC Davis one, which I believe they sell in laminated form, with notes.


Yes wine folly do one also, i’d buy their book for a similar price that has a wheel specific to each grape variety also, depending on age, oak use and climate type.


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This is an excellent web-based flavour guide, which deserves to be far better known than it is IMO


The wheel seems to miss out quite a lot of aromas such as rock and stone and bloody meat in red wines.

You are quite right. They were barely invented back then, around 2000 when the background work for the aroma wheel was done. You might notice they are largely absent from Tom Stevenson’s list too, though flint gets a mention.

What does that tell about those aromas? Did the wines change? Did tasters become so much more perceptive and clever? Or are tasters now just more imaginative?


Interesting points.
Last night cooked a very rich tomato sauce with some olives & Italian sausages (the ones that are slightly dried out but not quite salami yet) and wanted something with the acidity and tannin and power to cope.
So opted for the magnificent, complex and fruity bargain on TWS list at £8.50 that is the Bulgarian Heritage Mavrud. Had a good sniff and picked up on the fruit and spices then took a sip & sniffed again and it smelt just like a seared steak. Lovelly stuff.


To partly answser my own questions, rocks don’t smell of anything, though sometimes the organic matter that grows on them might. To an extent all aroma descriptions are metaphors. However, some do have a basis in chemistry (e.g. the fruit and the wine contain the same chemical that imparts the aroma, and that is also the case for the peppery smell in Syrah wines). On the other hand, any rock-based smell is, to put it tactfully, at the extremely fanciful end of the spectrum of metaphors,

Meat is different. By seared steak, I presume you mean the raw inside, as you mentioned raw meat in your previous post. I can’t find the reference for my information, but I’m sure I read that blood does have a smell and/or taste, and it is related to iron compounds.

You’ve got me thinking about there being no aroma coming from stones and rocks and looking back there are a few memories I have which have always made me think that they do emit an aroma.
Working in a factory we had a standards/calibration room full of granite tables and blocks in an enclosed area and when one stepped inside the room one could definitely smell the granite.
I think you can also smell the stones when taking a walk along Chesil Beach in Dorset, especially on a damp day. And Slate certainly has a bit of a whiff about it.
As you suggest though this aroma could be coming from what resides or grows on the rock.
The seared steak aroma was reminiscent of the burnt caramelised smell that comes off a freshly cooked beef steak from a hot pan as it rests. Not a bloody smell at all really, and had it been a piece of pork it would of course have smelt very different.
Iron comes from ore which is basically a rock mined from the ground, and that certainly has an aroma.
I must say that in trying to pin down how things smell I believe there is a lot of personal individuality coming into play. We like to think, the Mrs and I, that we both have pretty good senses of taste and smell which can be as much of a curse than a benefit. For example the water where we live smells and tastes absolutely dire and fluctuates in its level of revoltingness. And some days we just can’t face drinking a cup of tea when most folks seem quite happy to consume the stuff as though there is nothing wrong with it. Most of the time we concur with the flavours and aromas we find in our wine but every now and again there will be something one of us picks up on and the other just can’t latch onto it.
Now that’s reminded me of another issue: How many times have you read several critics notes concerning the same wine and they all differ on the basics such as fruit flavours and aromas, let alone the more subtle aspects.


Critics rarely agree on aromas, and even sometimes differ on the basic dimensions of sweetness, acidity etc. Also, as you say, how we experience wine does vary from time to time. All this leads me to pay little attention to tasting notes - even my own are of limited value to me. It is a theme I have been banging on about for a long time on my blog - to the extent that I now make a conscious to effort to try to shut up about it :slight_smile:

The bowl-of-fruit descriptions are also relatively new, though less recent than the mineral-based ones. Take a look at Michael Broadbent’s tasting notes - in a version of his book Vintage Wine for example

To tell if a rock itself smells or tastes of anything, you need to crack it open to get a clean surface. Flint does smell if you do that - the smell comes from particles of sulphur - but I don’t believe there are other examples.

Your example of granite is interesting though I think. Could it perhaps be from hot particles in the cutting process? It would be interesting to compare a roomful of granite with a roomful of bits of another equally hard rock.

OK - yes cooked meat certainly has a smell. I have found it occasionally on wine, but not so much recently, perhaps because of my changing drinking habits.


This Rutherford and Fry programme might be of interest to some. Only a passing (uncomplimentary) reference to wine tasting, but still fascinating stuff.

Petrichor. That smell in the air after rain falls on dry soil or rock. Presumably varies according to the rock ? it’s a very distinct scent on the rose granite soils in Beaujolais (I’m thinking Fleurie, but been a long time since I was there)

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If petrichor smells depend on rock at all, the effect will be very indirect. Wikipedia has a good summary of what petrichor is and what causes it.