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Funky Wine


I wasn’t sure whether to put this in the Wine Descriptors Thread, but in the end decided to start something new - that one is already quite long, and new stuff on the end of old threads can get lost. Sorry if you think it would have better there.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that “Funk”, “Funky” and “Funkiness” are descriptors that are increasingly used, and I’m really mystified as to their meaning. I’ve seen a wine described as having “Burgundy funk”. I’ve seen amphora and South African wines described as “funky”. And so on. An internet search seems to suggest that it means “marginally faulty”, which doesn’t sound good, yet I’ve seen it in an approving way. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s used around natural wines. But it doesn’t seem to be a particular taste. Does it just mean “it’s a bit weird, but I can’t really describe it”?

At the moment, I’m struggling to find it useful (far more so than minerality, which is a concept I do think I understand). When I read it, I’ve no idea what I’m expecting to taste. Can anybody help me?


For me it tends to be where a wine has been made in an oxidative fashion, Terre Inconnue Sans Nom springs to mind. Anything with overt Brett (Beaucastel CNDP or Musar sometimes) can fall in the camp too.


But that’s my point. Oxidative wines taste completely different to wines with Brett. Why use one word to cover both?


Very good point. Not sure wine descriptors tend to mean too much other than to the beholder!


I’m with you @robertd? I have no idea other than to think it just means a little odd but that can be a good or bad thing so I tend to find it rather unenlightening.


Great point, it’s something that’s bugged me for many years.

To my mind, it means this. Slightly faulty but it may add something to the wine that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Like a touch of VA or brett that some would consider flavour enhancing.

I was weened on new world wines that never exhibited those traits and I still find them hard to handle.

Unlike music I hasten to add. Give me Sly Stone over MC Hammer anyday.


I’ve noticed it getting more common too. I’ve searched my soul, tried reading desciptions with different rhythm, but in the end it’s just given me the blues. I just don’t know what the funk it means!


At a technical level, I would say the likely cause of funk would be brett, and funky wines would smell of poo, manure, nappies, sweat, cheese etc. Personally I would not include oxidation or volatility in the term funk, but maybe that is just me.

I also think it is usually used by people who like those wierd characteristics, so it is a rather positive descriptor - like funky music or design.


Actually, unlike many wine terms, I think dictionary definitions of funky describe how the word is used


Just looked it up now and see one of the definitions of funk is “strong musty smell of sweat or tobacco”, which does seem a fairly precise definition.


Dictionary.com (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/funky?s=t) says:

adjective, funk·i·er, funk·i·est.

  • Jazz. having an earthy, blues-based quality or character.

  • having an offensive smell; evil-smelling; foul.

I’m not buying wine like that!


You’re right, brett is the most likely cause for the descriptor.


Why not? Bet you buy Muenster cheese :slight_smile:


Early use seems to be exclusively around foodstuffs


Means it’s got style:

George Clinton is the last word on the subject.


Ah, but Munster is lovely :yum:


Only one wine on the list currently responds to the search term ‘funk’:


Me too! :+1:

Personally, if I describe a wine aroma/flavour as ‘funky’, I definitely mean there’s something Brett-y or farmyardy about it, and it’s almost always positive. I never think of oxidative-style as producing funky notes, but it’s because the sensations are more to do with wood polish/sour or tangy apple/nutty aromas and flavours and I don’t think of them as ‘funky’, more medicinal, if anything.

Still, it seems hard to articulate - it feels quite a tentative term rather than anything scientific as such.


Interesting! I wonder if the wild yeast produce this sort of aroma/flavour? but (personally) I can’t think of any white wine’s aroma/flavour which I ever consider funky.


‘Natural’ wines tend to be funky. I had a ‘funky’ cab franc at a very good restaurant in Bristol. After that I decided I like my wines decidedly unfunky.