5 Tasting Notes That Sound Awful But Are Actually Great

I made the mistake before Christmas of telling my family that I would be happy with a book or two for Christmas. I’m not an anti-bibliophile, far from it, but I don’t really read novels, so I often get given reference books and instantly the pool of literary talent narrows. My family know I work in wine, so they gravitate towards the vino section of the Amazon bookstore. It’s a big section. People love to write about wine, particularly in a reference way, because it’s almost a language in itself. Do you know what a closed wine is? It has absolutely nothing to do with where it’s cork is, and everything to do with how it tastes. Wine tasting notes are weird that way. It’s one of the many reasons that wine is better in the bottle than on the bookshelf.


As part of Try January, we’ll be looking at some of the more confusing flavour notes, and giving you the skinny on what they really mean. Not only will you learn something new for yourself, but you’ll also be able to take a bottle round to friends (when we are eventually allowed out) and show off your newfound knowledge like the pseudo-sommelier you are. Here we are looking at flavours that sound awful but are actually great…



A great example is… A Peu Pres Sauvignon Blanc


That’s right. The delicious flavours of flint. Unless you’re a 4 year eating mud, maybe that doesn’t sound quite right, but actually flinty wines are more common than you think. You have to get a little poetic here, but a flinty wine is one that smells a little like flint being struck against metal. In reality, it’s the limestone in the soil that makes for the flavour, but when you describe it to your friends, you can go all out on the ‘early man shaping tools’ rhetoric. It tastes entirely fresh, crisp and clean, making the perfect wine for warm days and spicy meals alike.


Cigar Box

A great example is… XX de Corbin


Thankfully, this has nothing to do with the flavours of a tobacco spittoon. Instead, it’s more of an aroma of cedar that creates this note. It comes from the smokiness imparted by barrels during the wine making process, and is often found in great Cabernet Sauvignon. The best bit is, it’s entirely good for your health, unlike cigars, and adds a real depth of intrigue to a deep swirling red.



A great example is... Slow Chenin Blanc


It wouldn’t be Veganuary without a mention of leafy wine. Sadly, it won’t count as one of your five a day, regardless of how many glasses you have. Leafy wines have a herbaceous note, that feels a little grassy, or reminds you of various herbs such as rosemary or thyme. Be careful though, a leafy wine that tastes of green pepper is often a sign of a bad wine, so if you’re looking for a leafy wine and you’re not sure, you might be better going with the best vegan option instead.



A great example is… Saint-Julien, 2014, Château Lalande


Feeling a little cannibalistic? Then fleshy wine isn’t for you. This isn’t very zombie-esque at all, and is all about the fruit feel on the tongue. A great fleshy wine reminds you of biting into a ripe, fleshy fruit, like a plum. It’s also about soft tannins, so the whole mouthful is rich fruity goodness without any of the bitterness. It’s pretty great, and saying “This wine is brilliantly fleshy” is always cool.



A great example is… Barbera d’Alba Le Gemella


Get your knife and fork. A chewy wine is pretty much how it sounds – it feels like you almost have to chew it. Now this might sound like a bad thing, but it really isn’t. It means a wine full of body and soul. Usually a chewy wine will be rich, ripe and luscious, so the more you indulge the better. Chewy wines are what decanters are for. Give them some air, and the chewy flavours turn into bitesize morsels of deliciousness.


Not all wine tasting notes sound good, but when you find a great place to get your wine from, you can bet that even if the notes sound a bit strange, your bottle will be a winner.

Written by Matt Mugan