HOME > Chowhound > Wine >


Sorry, but this $7 Chile Cabernet tastes the same as any other Cabernet I have ever tried.


Drinking Walnut Crest 2006 Cabernet.

Yea, it's a bit tannic.
Just like every other Cab.

"Bouquet: Complex, with cherry and currant aromas.
Taste: Rich, silky, with black-cherry flavors and vanilla notes."

LOL. Sorry, I don't smell a darn thing, except a generic "red wine-ish" smell.

I am so glad I can see through all the bullsh*t,
and not be connned by all this snake oil.

If I am wrong, what do I need to spend to actually taste something significantly different ?

  1. You seem to have a really odd and antagonistic attitude towards wine. If you don't expect to find anything in it and close yourself off to the experience, well you probably won't see much in wine.

    To get a really good cabernet sauvignon -- the kind that will change the way you think about it - you'd need to spend around $30. Go to a reputable wine store and ask for a good value, entry-level left-bank bordeaux.

    If you don't want to spend that much, drink other less pricey grapes. For around $15, you can get a really nice Chinon (Cabernet Franc), or a Ribera del Duero (Tempranillo) which you'll probably enjoy.

    And dial down the whole "snake oil" thing. No one's trying to cheat you.

    23 Replies
    1. re: oolah

      I do not smell ANY of these supposed aromas.

      Will I notice a difference between a $15 and $30 Bordeaux?
      I do not care what the cost is, I just want to discern there is a true difference.

      1. re: 914NYC

        You might, or then you might not. Some folk just do not smell that well to begin with. There are many physiological reasons that could account for this.

        Some others have just never explored their world with their nose, or just never thought about what they experienced.

        Only experimentation will tell.

        How do you do, when you open the vials in your spice cabinet, or drawer?

        If you were blindfolded, and led into an Italian market, would you have a clue, as to where you were? If so, then you might. If not, there is not a chance, that you could tell a US$7 Chilean Cab from '70 Latour.

        My wife has less a sense of smell, than do I. I also have spent a good deal of time trying to put words to what I have smelled. I can be transported to events in my youth, with just a simple aroma. Have you read much Faulkner? Did any of the olfactory references make sense to you, or did you wonder what the heck he was writing about?

        Maybe address the issues of sense of smell first, as it could be that wines will just never be the experience that you are seeking.

        Good luck,


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Well, I do not deal with Italian spices so it's all Greek to me.
          I have average sense of smell, I'd guess.
          I can smell STINKY French cheeses.
          I love the smell of quality chocolate... Blatant !
          I can certainly tell when someone has farted in the room, etc.

          Yea, everyone can smell popcorn or dung and be transported.
          There's nothing that that eroteric in that.
          I can smell blatant smells, like sticking my face in chocolate.
          But I will NEVER smell chocolate in wine.

          I think those wine people are just tring a little too hard. I think it's all a sham. B/c if they did smell that, they would be unable to FUNCTION in real life, when smell is not so delicate/subtle. (Like the fart, or traffic fumes, etc)

          1. re: 914NYC

            Then, were I you, I would simply give up and leave it.


              1. re: zin1953

                Good point. However any beer, ale, stout, Porter, etc. worth its price is also about aromas. Now, a Coors Light, served at 33F might be OK.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  Actually, I was thinking Corona Light . . .

              2. re: Bill Hunt

                To clarify, I bought 2 wine aroma kits. I practiced daily for 2 months. I can identify almost all the scents now. (One or two are just TOO subtle, and smell like "air"...like Hawthorn)

                However, these aroma bottles are blatantly SUPER contentrated. I can smell them in the aroma kit, but I do not smell ANYTHING resembling these smells in wine.

                Can it be b/c I have never spent over $20 on a bottle??

                Yet even the $15 bottles CLAIM to have 'XYZ scent" Do you pros smell aromas on cheaper bottles? If so, why spend more, if those smells are genuinely present. The other theory could be the CHEAP bottles are all BS, and do not have any of the scents the labels CLAIM. Like they're disguised tp have the properties of $30+ bottles. Imposters?

                1. re: 914NYC

                  Almost all wines, that are not too chilled offer up aromas for me. Sometimes, it's a one-trick pony. One smell and it does not change. Other times (more often with "better" wines, but not necessarily so), the aromas will be like peeling an onion - layer, upon layer. These can also change with time in the glass.

                  I have no possible explanation for why/how you can pick up most of the aromas in a "tasting kit," but not from any wine. Maybe ask of your otolaryngologist. Perhaps he/she can help you out.

                  Good luck,


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    > I have no possible explanation for why/how you can pick up most of the aromas in a "tasting kit," but not from any wine.

                    1) I am drinking too cheap wine.
                    2) It's all bullsh*t
                    3) Both 1 & 2

                    1. re: 914NYC

                      4) you are just not there yet, why the rush?

                2. re: Bill Hunt

                  Here is what I can correctly identify from my "Le Nez Du Vin" kit.

                  Lemon & Grapefruit (I do mix them up)
                  Pineapple (sweeter than Lemon & Grapefruit)
                  Lychee (Sweet)
                  Muscat (Sweet)
                  Pear (VERY subtle, very faint smell)
                  Hawthorn (I do not smell ANYTHING, so now, I know it's Hawthorn)
                  Blackcurrant (Cat Piss)
                  Butter & Toast (I do mix them up)
                  Roasted Hazelnut

                  I just do not smell ANY of these in my $10-$15 wines.
                  Let's see what happens when I kick it up to $30+

                  1. re: 914NYC

                    >>> Blackcurrant (Cat Piss) <<<

                    Cat pee = gooseberry or boxwood and is commonly associated with Sauvignon Blanc, especially from New Zealand.

                    Black currant is a characteristic commonly associated with Cabernet Sauvignon.

                    The two are VERY different.

                3. re: 914NYC

                  "I think those wine people are just tring a little too hard."

                  The thing is, we don't have to try much at all. Some people smell better than others. You may not.

                  "I think it's all a sham."

                  That's going a little far. Just because it's something you can't experience yourself doesn't negate the legitimacy. There are so, so many different scents in wine.

                  "...if they did smell that, they would be unable to FUNCTION in real life...".

                  A small amount of a concentrated scent in a glass that someone is focusing on smelling is much different than the other smells in everyday life. I assure you, I function just fine.

                  P.S. I think you're waiting for some miraculous experience where everything becomes crystal clear. That's just not how it works. Most of wine's differing scents are delicate and subjective. It takes most people a LOT of tasting before they can recognize such things. You either need to be very patient and taste, taste taste! or switch to another beverage of choice.

                  1. re: 914NYC

                    Actually, for some of us, horrible smells on a daily basis can make functioning difficult at times, ie when you have to have a regular meeting with someone with questionable mouth and pit deodorizing habits or the gas fumes from the leaf sweepers make one choke. We keep grapefruit oil in the car for when passing through polluted zones (another friend keeps dryer sheets in his car for the same reason).

                    Stinky cheese--chevre? hunter's cheddar? Stilton? Gorgonzola? --do they all smell exactly the same to you? I've been to wine tastings where a friend alternated between "men's locker room" and "dirty socks" as his descriptions (translated to musty, grassy, fermenting fruit, etc.).

                    Just start drinking wine more regularly, if you actually like the taste, and you'll eventually notice subtle differences. Ditto with apples, pears, chocolates...

                    1. re: Caralien

                      I can pick on smells of cheeses.
                      I recall a "Herve Deux" which smelled rancid.
                      I drowned it in honey, and actually liked it.

                      I also currently have a "Hooligan" from CT which is also stinky !!

                4. re: 914NYC

                  Not all $30 wines are better than all $15 wines, but let's just assume for a second that price always directly correlates to quality. So in the $30 wine, you'd be getting grapes from a better vineyard situated in a place more amenable to growing grapes. You'd be getting wine made from grapes from older vines. You'd be getting better quality grapes from the harvest. You'd be getting wine from a more experienced or more talented wine maker. So is there a "true" difference? Yes, whether or not you perceive it.

                  Do you have any personal friends who like wine? Maybe you could share a bottle with one of them -- it might help you identify some flavors if you share the experience with someone who does perceive the difference.

                  1. re: 914NYC

                    >>> I do not care what the cost is, I just want to discern there is a true difference. <<<

                    STOP! Just STOP!!!

                    You have posted several times about wines and not finding them to your liking, about various prices v. quality, etc., etc. See the following:

                    . . . and the list goes on.

                    Stop trying to do this on your own. You're in Westchester County, or close enough to Manhattan, anyway, that you can take wine classes with Mary Ewing-Mulligan at the International Wine Center -- see http://www.internationalwinecenter.com/ -- or at any number of legitimate places in NYC.

                    Let the professionals SHOW you . . . to ask US (on Chowhound) what THIS is like, or THAT . . . without sitting down with you, and tasting the Chilean Cabernet WITH you, and tasting a Napa Valley Cabernet WITH you, and tasting a French Bordeaux WITH you -- all side-by-side, and hearing your comments on each wine, and my/our comments on each wine . . . you will never learn (and neither will I/we) what we mean (or you mean) when a wine is described as full, rich, light, appley, smokey, oaky, minerally, dense, rustic, plummy, sweet cream, etc. Honest.

                    It's nothing against you. It's the circumstance. I cannot taste with you via the internet. (Technology hasn't fixed that problem yet.) And so I cannot know precisely what you mean when you describe __________, and you cannot know what I mean. But if you take a class from Mary, or someone equally qualified, or even join/create a tasting group with your friends . . . you will learn LOTS!

                    1. re: zin1953

                      I agree with Jason.

                      You need a guide to help you learn how to pick out flavors and smells in wine. I'd recommend a Wine Flavor and Aroma Identification class. Some resources are below that can help you find one.

                      I have an acute sense of smell. I believe I was, in part, born that way, but I also developed my sense of smell as I became a good cook and got more involved in wine.

                      I've had remarkable teachers that have helped me become even better, and I've tasted with others whose sense of smell was also acute and who were able to articulate the specific smell they were tasting. Examples: the difference between bell pepper and pimento, in wine. The difference between anise and fennel, in wine: one is lighter and greener.

                      Please dispense with the BS and "snake oil" lines. That mindset will close you off to what sensory experiences are right under your nose.

                      Call the places in the threads below and ask who teaches a
                      Flavor and Aroma Identification Class:

                      "Wine classes in NYC. Where? "

                      "looking for wine classes/tastings "-- Manhattan Board

                      Wine tasting class in manhattan?

                      "Best Wine-Tasting Class in NYC"

                      I can also recommend the same teacher as Jason: Mary-Ewing Mulligan. She is the co-author, with her husband Ed McCarthy, of several of the Wine for Dummies books, and is mentioned in several of the threads above. She's extra sharp -- but she does not suffer fools gladly or tolerate those with attitude!

                      1. re: zin1953

                        Thanks. I have taken about a dozen "classes" in NYC. They ranged from total bullsh*t to mediocre. Many had $10 bottles, most in the $15 range. All focused on the same beginner BS. I have read 5 wine books, so those classes are a waste now. If cheap wines have no complexity, then this is the problem. ie: Not ME, but simply I am drinking the wrong wine. (Assumption is that cheap wines do not have these tases and smells, and are just generic)

                        To see the difference, I believe my next step is to drink HIGH PRICED wines at home. (More economical, and I have control over what I drink) B/c I have tasted too few $20+ wines. I think this is precisely of the problem. I am going to a high end store and buying a few $50+bottles.

                        1. re: 914NYC

                          To clarify, were you my student, with that attitude, I'd fail you. Every time.

                          Your attitude is the problem, not the price of the wine. I *rarely* spend more than $20-25 on a bottle on wine (excluding sparkling and fortified wines), and I drink some great stuff. I also drink some very good stuff (that is, not every bottle is great, but nothing sucks). You don't have to spend $50+ to get a great bottle. Indeed, in your case, I think spending $50+ would be about $35-40 too much, based upon your comments.

                          A $50 bottle is NOT some magical elixir that causes the heavens to part and the angels to sing . . . the differences between a $20 and a $50 bottle are far more subtle, far more nuanced than than that.

                          There is a HUGE difference between a wine labeled "Cabernet Sauvignon" with a "California" appellation, and a price tag under $10, and a wine labeled "Cabernet Sauvignon" with a "Napa Valley" appellation and a price tag of $20-25. But between a Napa Valley Cabernet at $20-25 and a Napa Valley Cabernet at $50-60? Subtle differences . . .

                          Then again, it's your money -- you're naturally free to spend it on whatever you want. But I wouldn't waste it if I were you . . . .

                          1. re: zin1953

                            Agreed. But the point is the same. I have been in the $15 and under range. I am done with that and will be moving up to the $20-35 range. The damn cloud better part and I better notice something, otherwise, I will stick to fruit juice if I want to smell anything, and laugh at all the morons wasting their money spending hours desperately trying to find any smell in their BS snake oil wine.

                          2. re: 914NYC

                            You seem to be reaching for an advanced class, but cannot complete the work necessary in the beginning level. My advice would be to open you mind a bit and not worry a bit about the price of the wine.

                            I still take interesting "beginner" classes and usually learn something from the experience. With wine, as with most of life, I am a student and always try to approach things as a student. If I can learn just one thing each day, I declare it a success, pull out the Cubans and some good wine to celebrate!

                            If one cannot pick up the nuances in a US$10 btl. of Cab, they are probably going to be just as hampered with a US$70 btl, just out the extera $60.


                    2. What type of glasses are you using, how full do you pour, and what temperature is the wine when you start drinking it? Do you taste and smell it over the course of an hour, or pretty quickly after opening the bottle?

                      You don't need hand-blown Reidells, but I have trouble getting much nuance out of a wine if it's in a tumbler.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: SteveG

                        I use large bowled wine glasses, not fake BS ones.
                        I know how to swirl and swish.
                        I serve the wine chilled.
                        I even decant buy using a large pan.

                        1. re: 914NYC

                          How chilled? How big are the wine glasses? (Inches across) What is fake BS to you?

                          1. re: SteveG

                            15 min. in the fridge.
                            I use large bowled Reidel glasses.
                            Anything besides Reidel is "fake BS" to me.
                            I refuse to drink wine in small glasses.
                            Can't swirl. (Smell is moot since I don't smell a damn thing)
                            But, I MUST swirl before drinking.
                            It is habit now.

                            1. re: 914NYC

                              You're chilling the cabernet? That could be part of the problem, as chilling prevents the full scent from being released (hence foods served chilled are made with more concentrated flavours).

                              1. re: Caralien

                                Wait, I thought red wine should be chilled for 15 mins.
                                Is this only certain reds???

                                1. re: 914NYC

                                  As george2 stated below, 65F (room temperature) is better for many reds. Unless your apartment is hot, which it might be (our NY place was about 90F+ during the winter unless we kept the windows open), doing a chill in a 40F refrigerator is probably not necessary.

                                  The only reds I can think of chilling would be very sweet varietals, which cabernet is not.

                      2. This "wine thing" is not for everyone. Many of us don't have even average "tasters" so we don't taste even relatively large differences in wine much less subtle nuances. Red wine is best at around 65 and white around 55. Any more chill than that flattens out the taste and aromas quite a bit.

                        With all due respect, if you're really giving wine tasting a fair shake (and it sounds like you are trying hard) it's probably not worth it for you to spend a lot on wine.

                        Buy what you like and enjoy. If it's frustrating, it's simply not worth it.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: george2

                          I use the following rule of thumb:
                          Red: Chill for 15 mins.
                          White: Remove from fridge. Let it warm for 15 mins.

                        2. Not everyone will get the same enjoyment from wine, or from chicken tikkha or parkour or hiking in the woods. Everyone has different tastes, likes and dislikes.

                          Its most likely best that you seek some professional help like Jason, Maria and the others suggest.

                          1. There are a few possible reasons why your Chilean wine tasted to you lke generic red. First, it may have just been that. I am never surprised by the ordinariness of mass market "international" wines. I call them WMD's -- wines of minimal distinction -- and if that's what you had, your assessment is correct.

                            Second, you may be in the genetic group of "non-tasters," at the wrong end of the tasting lottery. As I have heard it, there is a gene that determines tasting ability, two copies give "supertasters," one copy ordinary ability, and no copies the ability to eat inherently ugly tasting food without discomfort (no need to spend time to acquire a taste for onions and garlic, for instance). Wine writers trend toward the supertaster genotype, or try to imitate it by imagining leather and tar and chocolate and violets in everything wet and red.

                            Third may be, er..., no offense, your mouth. Are you a smoker? Have a need for teeth cleaning? Chronic sinus drip? Bad breath? Well, you get the idea. Ask someone who is willing to offend you.

                            As a rare cause of poor tasting ability, there is zinc deficiency. It takes a month or so of supplementation to fix it, but it is rare.

                            Then again, maybe you should drink martinis.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: therealdoctorlew

                              Should I start eating Zinc pills each day, in order to start tasting the subtleties in wine? If so, how many MG a day? I will do whatever it takes to understand this, and cost is NO ISSUE.

                            2. First off Walnut Crest is not good wine.

                              Second you need to as many said take a wine class.

                              Third get Wine Spectator and use it as a guide to buy better wines. There are many good $15 wines that have plenty of aromas and flavors to offer that you would normally pass up.

                              Fourth to get good at wine it is work. Most people settle and miss out on the good stuff at any price point. Good example was instead of drinking the over priced Silver Oak I drink wines like Andersons Conn Valley, Betz, and Andrew Will. The wine is better and offers more in the same price point category.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: wineglas

                                Yes, but ALL wines claim to have aromas. Are $15 bottles claiming to have aromas just a scam? (As per my query above)

                                1. re: 914NYC

                                  Are you saying that no $15-and-under wine you have smelled, has an aroma? Wow, I guess my "fake BS" $8.99/stem Tritan glasses work pretty well then. Honestly most of my daily drinkers are under $20. And no 2 buck chuck here. One of my favorites in this price range (also because I love Riesling) is Trimbach from Alsace. It definitely has an aroma. Stony. Minerally. Tastes good too. Automatic "yum" from me. It complements all the asian food I eat, and my picky sister (generally more of a cocktail type) actually likes it. This lead me to try other Rieslings from Alsace, which lead me to try other grapes grown in Alsace... and so on. I guess I'm lucky that I've had the opposite experience from you in my wine discovery process. I rely on a good wine shop that always provides me with information without attitude and I'm not embarrased to ask all the questions that I have. I've found that this usually makes people want to pour me more and let me taste more, whether it is at my local wine bar or a winery. I'm not a smart-ass about it. I'm very open to trying (tasting) new things because I have a lot to learn. I don't think there will ever be a point where I can say "I'm DONE. I GOT it." I learned more about Alsace because a few years ago there was a new guy working at the wine bar I go to. I asked where he was from and he said, Alsace. I asked him to tell me about wines from his home. Bam! Here's a free pour of Trimbach... It would be a vastly different experience if I went in saying: I think all Rieslings, from all around the world, and at all price points, taste exactly the same, and I don't see what all the fuss is about anyway. Hah! But to each his own. One of my good friends loves oaky, buttery chardonnay and I do not. Its all good. Although nothing anybody can say here will change your mind. I've never met a closet wine hater before.

                                  1. re: SanJoseHound

                                    Thanks for the reply.

                                    I once had a Falangina that was very stony/minerally. This was the ONLY white wine I ever tasted where I understood what the heck they had been meaning by "stony/minerally". For every other wine I had with that description, I think it was all bogus posturing.

                                    I can not tell the difference b/w an oaky/buttery Chardonnay and an acidic Sauv Blanc. I have bought the extreme, to boot. (Give me the most over the top, outrageous oaky Chard. you can find). BUt, I could barely tell the difference. All that research pairing the 2 with different types of food, all seemed comical, since they were basically interchangable !! Now, I realize, Oaking is an EXPENSIVE manual, process, and you will not get true oak in a $10 Chard. I will go spend $20-$30 on an "Oaky/Creamy/Buttery" Chard, so I can see what the fuss is all about !

                                    My other mistake was really really trying to discern differences at a local wine bar. It turns out, they ONLY sold (by the glass), $10 swill bottles. Well, NO WONDER it was SOOOO difficult to sense ANY differences. Montepulcciano, Rioja, Pinot, etc...All basically the same, unless you focused so hard like it was the SAT's (ie: RED)

                                    1. re: 914NYC

                                      If you can't taste the diff between a buttery, oaky Chard and a crisp, juicy Sauv Blanc, I think you are truly wasting your time and money trying to get behind 'wine's big secret'. Clearly, your sense of smell/taste is rudimentary at best.

                                      And you can't tell any differences between different red grapes either. Why not just stick to places where the choice is between "red or white?"

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        Well, like I said I can't tell the difference b/w $10 buttery, oaky Chard and a $10 crisp, juicy Sauv Blanc. It may be pure BS at that price point, as one wine expert friend has intimated.

                                        "There is nothing to taste at under $30" he has said. I used to call him a snob phoney, but now I think he is right.

                                        I will be trying a handful of $30+ wines this next few weeks, and will see if I still can't tell any difference. The $55 vs $8 Pinit sure pointed me in the right direction, although I have never drank a wine and said "I love this wine" It's all just "wine" to me.

                                        1. re: 914NYC

                                          >>> "There is nothing to taste at under $30" he has said. I used to call him a snob phoney, but now I think he is right. <<<

                                          That's the dumbest statement ever made -- as I've said before, I rarely spend OVER $30 on table wines, and I can guarantee you I'm drinking some great wines.

                                          >>> although I have never drank a wine and said "I love this wine" It's all just "wine" to me. <<<

                                          That's fine! Why does it matter so much???

                              2. I have a coupe takes on this post:

                                1. Ignorance is bliss: If you enjoy Walnut Crest then why spend more $$$ ? Some folks like SPAM more than a dry aged porterhouse. To each his/her own.

                                2. Price is no guarantee of quality in wine or any other product for that matter.

                                3. For me (and most here on CH I would guess), there is a connection between price, enjoyment, and value (QPR). I really enjoy opening a bottle of Owen Roe Dubrul Cabernet ($60) and have a different expectation for that wine than I would for $7 Columbia Crest. The setting is likely to be different (relaxed Saturday night with candles and a carefully prepared meal for the Owen Roe versus Tuesday night pizza while watching television with the Columbia Crest). Could I tell the difference if blindly poured ? Absolutley , before taking a sip. If I couldn't, I would never spend the extra money. Granted, this is a very specific comparison and there are plenty of $15 bottles that I nejoy more than $50 (hence, that is how my purchases are driven). Price drives my decision to buy, value drives my decision to buy on a repeat basis.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: TonyO

                                  Personally, I am beginning to believe that 914NYC is putting us all on - having sport with our passion. These types of threads have been going on for some time, with most of the same serious replies. If we are to believe 914NYC, then nothing works (though there was that one "minerally" Italian.

                                  I hope that 914NYC finds what he/she is looking for.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    I said much the same thing last night---although I must have crossed a line since my post has vanished. Again, I suggest that 914NYC should stick to bottles that are under $10 since he/she seems unable to detect so much of what is enjoyable in wine.

                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      I'd suspect "drinking and posting," but there aren't enough typos!

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        I do agree, especially when compared to most of my posts. They play on the wine board, but not so well on the others - just don't have the patience to reassemble the letters I guess..

                                        Hope I'm wrong, but so many have tried to share their knowledge, their experiences and as much as we can offer. I'm not sure what else can be said.

                                        Still, I wish 914NYC well in the pursuit. I just think that I have contribued all that I can think of.


                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          Sorry, but my posts are only TOO true.
                                          I wish this was all a joke.

                                          I have invested $1000+ and months of research.
                                          You think I don't have other work to do? PLEASE.

                                          1. re: 914NYC

                                            It certainly doesn't seem like it, and you still have not answered the main question: WHY?

                                  2. Out of curiosity, where did the tasting notes you quote come from? A professional review, a retailer's shelf-talker, or the back of the label? Each should be taken with a grain of salt, but the size of the grain may vary. "Complex", "rich", and "silky" are pretty unusual descriptors for a $7 bottle - not that a $7 bottle can't be good, but complexity and richness are rarely its strong suits.

                                    The only professional review I find of this wine is from Spectator, which says "Forward and easy, showing grape and cherry flavors, with a dash of herb and vanilla on the finish" - which sounds a lot more likely (though it should be noted that the basic descriptors are actually pretty similar).

                                    BUT - I suspect that if you cannot get any sense of cherry or currant (classic cabernet sauvignon notes) or vanilla (typical from oak barrel aging), then *maybe you just don't have the palate for wine.*

                                    Note, however, that does NOT mean that the diners siting at the table next to you can NOT taste or smell things you don't. Nor does it mean that wine is bullshit or snake oil. All it means is (1) taste is subjective; and (2) the ability to taste and smell varies from person to person.

                                    Some people are colorblind and unable to distinguish between red and green. Does that mean that everyone who describes the green or red colors in a painting is full of shit?

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: Frodnesor

                                      The reason I say snake oil is b/c the MAJORITY of people do not sense any of these subtleties. Including people with STRONG sense of smell.

                                      The vanilla is a true joke. I have smelled vanilla extract from a bottle. Most distinct smell on the planet. I have NEVER smelled ANY hint of this in any wine labelled as such. (ie: Snake oil). But again, I will revisit everything strictly with $20-$35 bottles, and I bet everything will change! No more $15 plonk that has no complexity.

                                      I bet if I packaged water, and added a tasting note that read: "Creamy notes of vanilla bean, mango and soft toasted cashew butter" people would actually agree !!! Power of suggestion is a huge thing in life !

                                      1. re: 914NYC

                                        *The reason I say snake oil is b/c the MAJORITY of people do not sense any of these subtleties. Including people with STRONG sense of smell.*

                                        Actually, the MAJORITY of people who enjoy wine do pick up on at least some of its subtleties - they are not all drinking it to be cool. I suspect the sample size you are using is insufficient to support your conclusion - and may also be susceptible to suggestion as well.

                                        You are also ignoring that taste is quite subjective, and what one person picks up, another may not, and what one person perceives one way, another may perceive differently. Just because one reviewer notes particular things does not mean that everyone (including another professional reviewer) will perceive the same. And marketing-speak on labels - especially $7 bottles - should basically be ignored.

                                        Instead of focusing on particular flavors or aromas, consider just focusing on the basic enjoyment of it. Does it smell good? Does it taste good? Does it feel good in your mouth? Does it seem balanced, or is it to acidic, or too sweet?

                                        1. re: Frodnesor

                                          Good advice. Thanks. And ignoring tasting notes on under $15 is a huge breakthrough for me. Thanks

                                        2. re: 914NYC

                                          If you can HONESTLY say . . .

                                          >>> The vanilla is a true joke. I have smelled vanilla extract from a bottle. Most distinct smell on the planet. I have NEVER smelled ANY hint of this in any wine labelled as such. <<<

                                          . . . then CLEARLY you have not been paying attention in all the wine classes you say you have taken.

                                          First of all, in 35+ years of being in the wine trade and in 30+ years of teaching wine classes, I've never seen any wine labeled "Vanilla." Usually they are labeled "Chardonnay" and sometimes even "Meursault," but never "Vanilla."

                                          Second, "vanilla" (or more properly, "vanillin," but let's not split hairs) is a common DESCRIPTOR employed in an ATTEMPT to describe the aromas one smells in a particular glass of wine. No one ADDS vanilla (vanillin).

                                          May I ask you a question? Can you tell me what chocolate tastes like? I'm serious. Let's say I have never tasted chocolate in my life. Describe it to me.

                                          Common descriptors for chocolate might include "sweet." Do you mean like honey?

                                          What about "bitter"? Do you mean like over-extracted black tea?

                                          Lots of people will say "creamy" -- do them mean like unbeaten heavy cream?

                                          Lots of people will say "vanilla" -- do they mean like vanilla extract?

                                          So . . . if I take honey, really strong black tea, whipped cream, and some vanilla extract and blend it all together,it will taste like chocolate???

                                          Obviously, the answer is "no," but "sweet," "bitter," "creamy," and "vanilla" are ALL valid descriptors for chocolate.

                                          The things you are looking for are -- in most cases -- not there. But that does not dismiss their validity as descriptors. The idea is to paint a "word picture" of a taste, a flavor, something that is impossible to do but we attempt to do it all the time nonetheless. Clearly you have NOT understood this, if you persist in looking for these exact characteristics.

                                          The goal, as I say, is to attempt to describe a flavor using words, rather than scents. After all, I was (e.g.) at Lalime's for dinner and you were not -- so when I post tasting notes, it is an ATTEMPT to share a glass of wine with you via the printed word. (Hardly satisfying, is it?) The more specific one can be, the more specific the picture one paints -- so, for example, "apples" is not as good a descriptor as "Golden Delicious," "Pippin," or "Winesap." But no one actually puts apples into their Chardonnay, any more than they actually add vanilla . . .

                                          1. re: zin1953

                                            So if a bottle's tasting notes say "Vanilla", I should NOT expect to smell any actual vanilla smell? Jesus, I must admit, this is quite a leap for me.

                                            Orwellian, in fact. ("Vanilla is choclate")

                                            With that, I guess I will simply disregard ALL descriptors, as they are useless, subjective, and not even present to begin with!!!

                                            Wine is easily the most complicated and stressful subject matter I have EVER tried to learn. But I never give up, once I decide I want to master it. I will CONQUER this !!

                                            1. re: 914NYC

                                              >>> Orwellian, in fact. ("Vanilla is choclate") <<<

                                              Unlike wine, where no one actually adds vanilla extract, chocolate is MADE with vanilla extract, or with vanillin.

                                              >>> Wine is easily the most complicated and stressful subject matter I have EVER tried to learn. But I never give up, once I decide I want to master it. I will CONQUER this !! <<<

                                              Why? Why bother?? Why is it so important to you???

                                          2. re: 914NYC

                                            Don't know which wines you've been tasting but vanilla -- or more precisely vanillin -- is definitely part of the aromatic profile of some wines, often expensive ones. "Vanillin, phenolic aldehyde found in grapes and a component of the lignin structure of oak wood; responsible for the vanilla note in wines. It is especially extracted from barrel wood" (Oxford Companion to Wines).

                                            Grapes and the winemaking process also create aromatic compounds in wines that are identical or very similar to the compounds responsible for the aromas of many of the actual fruits, herbs and other things wine tasters refer to:
                                            - Rose/lychee in a Gewurztraminer? Well, Gewurztraminers contain damascenone.
                                            - Grass in a Sauvingon Blanc? Blame methoxypyrazine for a start.
                                            - Flowers in Muscat? It's the terpenes, more specifically linalool and geraniol.
                                            - Gamy, animal aromas in a Syrah? Possibly 4-ethylphenol and 4-ethylguaiacol from Brettanomyces yeast.

                                            These compounds and others have proven aromatic qualities. They are found in wines. People aren't imagining them. It's not unusual for an experienced taster to be able to identify a wine double-blind, without knowing anything about it other than its colour. Often the taster doesn't even need to taste the wine: if I smell kerosene and lemon-lime, I'm going to guess Riesling; if gooseberry, grass and cat pee, Sauvignon Blanc. How do you think these double-blind tasters identify the wine if not by smelling specific aromas? Voodoo? A giant worldwide conspiracy?

                                            Just because you don't get it, doesn't mean it's snake oil or that those who do get it are bullshit artists. If anyone's leading others down the garden path, it's you, who seems to get a kick out of trollishly stirring the pot and insulting the very people you're ostensibly asking for help.

                                            P.S. Beyond information like grape variety, alcohol level, vintage, appellation and winemaking details, wine label blurbs are best ignored as pure marketing hype. There are some exceptions -- California's Ridge labels are models in this regard -- but they're few and far between.

                                            1. re: carswell

                                              "Vanilla is definitely part of the aromatic profile of some wines, often expensive ones."

                                              Yes, I will buy some expensive white / oaked wines and see if I smell vanilla, but I will NOT read the label, as we've determined that labels are BS, esp. in the cheaper wines. Again, at under $15, they are probably NOT oaked, and ergo, no vanillins !!

                                              1. re: carswell

                                                Agreed they exist, just too subtle for most humans, or nonexistant in cheapo under $15 wines.

                                          3. 914NYC, do you enjoy the $7 cabernet? If so, stay with it and be happy you don't have to spend more.

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              That is a very good point, but I just find it hard to believe an entire culture / school of thought / system is based on a mirage. I have invested months of my time, read 5 textbooks, gone to dozens of wine classes... I can not believe an entire industry / lifestyle / identity could be based on a massive exaggeration of such subtle indetectable nuances. There must be something to this...Otherwise, people would simply be obsessed with normal grocery store food and drinks, where the scents and tastes are about 1000x more blatant / obvious / prevalent.

                                              As per my other posting, I did try a $55 bottle last night. It tasted like mud, but at least it was clear there was a different taste compared to a "watery" $8 bottle.

                                              I plan to get a few more bottles today, in the $30 range, and see what world has been opened up. Again, I have just been too cheap about it.

                                              To the people who insist on attacking me premise, please just leave my thread. To those who have offered helpful suggestions, I thank you...

                                              1. re: 914NYC

                                                If you find the colorful metaphors used to describe wine's flavors to be a bit exaggerated, just go to a modern art auction and hear their drivel.

                                                1. re: 914NYC

                                                  My advice: don't waste your money. Drink what you like, and stop wasting s much effort and energy into understanding / dissecting the "culture." It's just fermented grape juice. Period. Enjoy it.

                                                  1. re: 914NYC

                                                    There is a reason I asked. I grew up in California when wine making and drinking were getting started in the US. We enjoyed and learned about wines. I lived in southern Bolivia where the wines were surprisingly good! I've had and appreciated good and even some great wines around the world. But I currently have a bottle of good but inexpensive Chilean Cab every night. Although I can tell the differences among wines, I now don't really crave more than the "$7 Clilean Cabs" you mention. My friends all find this strange because of my insistance on quality food and cooking.

                                                    Although You've lobbed a few while trying to rile up the wine peope, they've almost all replied with thoughtful and considerate answers. I dislike the exaggerated metaphors as much as Veggo, but why not just be happy with what you like?

                                                    1. re: 914NYC

                                                      I am curious...How long have you been drinking wine? I bet if you asked people on this board, especially those with the ability to taste & smell and put into words what they are drinking, they would say decades...Come back and visit these topics again in a few years and see if you notice the same things, or feel that it is still all snake oil

                                                      as far as people attacking you, don't forget that you are calling a lot of people on this board charlatans or just plain stupidly duped. that is not going to go over well.

                                                      1. re: cleopatra999

                                                        A few months, I suppose.

                                                        But again, the confusion lies in these 2 statements:

                                                        1) Wine tasting is NOT hard work. It is rather easy. Just smell and f*cking taste. This is purely enjoyable, and I have never seen ANYONE stuuggle like you have.


                                                        2) Devloping a wine palette can take a DECADE of tasting until you recognize the subtlety. This will not come easy, and takes lots and lots of patience and dedication. (At which one MUST ask, then why the hell do you not just sniff the ACTUAL stuff...you'll get 10000000x times more pleasure)

                                                        Well, WHICH IS IT ?!?!

                                                        1. re: 914NYC

                                                          1) Swimming is NOT hard work. It is rather easy. Just put on some water wings and dog-paddle. For young kids and other newbies, this is purely enjoyable.


                                                          2) Becoming an expert swimmer can take a DECADE of swimming until you learn all the techniques and gain all the necessary experience. This will not come easy, and takes lots and lots of practice and dedication. And even then you'll be limited to some extent by your natural ability. (At which one MUST ask, then why the hell do you not just fill the tub, get a rubber ducky and take a hot bath... you'll get 100000000x times more pleasure.)

                                                          1. re: 914NYC

                                                            Eating and drinking, per se, are not hard work at all unless you have a disorder, handicap, etc.

                                                            Discerning the flavours shouldn't be hard work either, but may require practice and training--it takes time, more for some, less for others. If you didn't grow up drinking wine, it may take longer to discern the elements compared to someone who had it from childhood onwards, or a lot of practice over decades.

                                                            It's not hard to cook an egg, but it may take awhile to do it well and master all of the techniques involved in transforming the egg into the plethora of items it can become on its own or in combination with different ingredients.

                                                            I love vanilla, but don't want to drink it from an extract bottle (Licor 43, however, is nice on ice cream). Red wines can be bland or taste or smell like cherries, mixed berries, roses, pepper, prunes, earth, musk--any number of flavours, which is true for most decent wines at all price points (and some taste very different from how they smell). Whether you can determine what those flavours are or not, but enjoy the wine, it doesn't have to matter. I could (and do) drink cherry, mixed berry, and prune juice, as well as local non-grape fruit wines, but I prefer to drink grape wines because I like it.

                                                            I didn't start drinking wine because I wanted to know what the subtleties were--I did because I simply like wine. If there was a intended result aside from drinking (or getting smashingly drunk at hostels), I might too have been frustrated at not being able to determine what appeared to either be obvious or, as you've called it, a hoax, mirage, snake oil, suggestive thinking, etc.

                                                            Take few different cabernets from the same vintage and taste them side by side (Rothschilds from France, Chile, and Australia?). Or reds from different producers in the same region.

                                                            It's not like getting a real estate license in 3 months instead of 6-18. Just take your time and try to enjoy yourself.

                                                            Being frustrated and angry is a pretty good way to dull your senses, even if it's only temporarily.

                                                            1. re: 914NYC

                                                              Most people actually said that there are scents in all bottles and all price points; you were the one claiming that it must be based on price because you can't smell anything aside from farts. Got it.

                                                              Maybe you need to see your ENT physician, stay away from nose candy, or stop being such a jerk when people have genuinely tried to be helpful.

                                                      1. re: therealdoctorlew

                                                        Yep. Sounds like no wine in the world, at whatever price level, will satisfy his discerning (or not) palate.

                                                        Dude, some people simply don't enjoy wine as much as other people. No attack, but a fact. Why not just deal.

                                                        1. re: therealdoctorlew

                                                          Not into beer. I LOATH most beers. Sometimes, I'll drink a Brown Ale.

                                                          I do like however (ironically) the flavored beers. Sam Adams Cherry. Strawberry Blonde Ale. Now these have blatantly recognizable smells/tastes (while still being subtle, aka: not fruit juice)

                                                        2. Okay, I've refrained thus far, but there are many well-informed people who are trying to be helpful here and you don't seem to be hearing them. So let's make this simple.

                                                          We'll start by giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming that you're neither a troll nor a moron. This assumption is a bit of a stretch, but let's work with it.

                                                          There are people who can taste significant differences between wines. That's not a matter that is open to dispute, since identifying wine styles and individual wines in blind tasting examinations is part of every serious sommelier certification program. Only those who can taste the differences between wines will pass the course. So your claim that this is "snake oil" or a "sham" is flat-out wrong. There are differences - the only question is whether you can detect them.

                                                          You claim that you can't. There are only two possible reasons for this: either your sense of smell is impaired, or you're not paying attention. You may not be paying attention because you don't know what you should be paying attention to, or you may not be paying attention because your mind is already made up.

                                                          If you're really interested in developing a taste for good wine, listen to those who know something about it. Ask questions. But you will learn a lot more and make much less of a fool of yourself in the process if you stop spouting idiotic and demonstrably false opinions.

                                                          1. Folks, we're closing this discussion, as we seem to be circling around and around the same points and posts are growing increasingly nasty (many of which we've removed.)

                                                            We appreciate the input from the wine-savvy contributors on this thread, and we're grateful for the advice shared here, which will benefit not just 914NYC but others who read this thread.