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Classic Sarcastic descriptors

Alanbarnes recent comment on some Aussie Sauvignon Blanc wines as "grapefruit-run-over-by-a-lawnmower", made me wonder how many more blow-it-out-your-nose bon mots might be out there. What hilarious descriptions have you heard? Apologies if this has been previously flogged about.

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  1. Smell descriptors, there are tons of funny ones.
    I'm not your typical descriptor user, but can remember some very abused ones:

    Wet socks
    Locker room

    1. Like a donkey defecating into a vat of blue cheese: descriptor used by a member of our tasting group to describe the nose of an impossibly bretty Vacqueyras.

      4 Replies
      1. re: carswell

        Bacon fat cooked over burning tires (South African poorly made red)
        Crushed river rocks dipped in lemon-lime-water
        Green bell peppers with a side of manure
        Fresh compost over cherries

        1. re: carswell

          Reminds me of the comment attributed to H. Allen Smith after he drank his first American beer... "Put it back in the horse!"

          1. re: PolarBear

            "Put it back in the horse!"

            Ha! Hadn't heard that before. Thanks for the laugh.

            At an all-bubbly tasting yesterday evening, a particularly vile sparkling Shiraz elicited the comment "like a Little Penguin that's been feasting on beans."

          2. I've used "like a tar road on a hot July afternoon" to describe the aroma of a German Rielsing. I've also used "toe jam" as a descriptor (not in a good way) to describe some older whites. Finally, I've used "my grandparents' basement" to describe a Bordeaux that had a pronounced gun metal aroma.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Brad Ballinger

              Wow Brad, that is getting very Faulkneresque. Now, I do get transported to other times and other places, when encountering wines, but most of those times and places are a bit more pleasant than what you have encountered - though I have had my share of "off-putting" ones.


            2. I've heard "cat pee" tossed around quite a bit.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Matt Esq.

                That's a typical trait of Sauvignon Blanc (a desireable one).

              2. Gasoline
                Lighter Fluid

                4 Replies
                1. re: MGZ

                  Oh, and after a recent taste of a local wine (NJ), my wife likened the nose to industrial resin. I picked up hints of dry cleaning solution.

                    1. re: MGZ

                      <I picked up hints of dry cleaning solution.>

                      I can think of more than one Jersey wine and several from Illinois that would answer to that description.

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        Now, "petrol" is one thing, but "dry cleaning fluid" is something else - entirely.


                  1. 'Wet dog in a phone booth'

                    1. Somehow, I forgot the classic "moldy ass."

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: MGZ

                        Reminds me of Leo Kottke's description of his own singing... "like geese farts on a muggy day".

                        1. re: MGZ

                          Reminds me of when my drill instructors would say our barracks smelled like a "wide open ass." Ha!

                        2. My hubby thinks most Bordeaux smell like "French feet".

                          He's said this so much that he's even gotten me and a couple other friends to describe the somewhat musky aroma of some old-word reds as "feet-y"

                          Real quote: "Hmmm...the feet-iness of this wine somehow goes really well with the burgers".

                          1. Actually, Alan was referring to NZ SB.

                            Going back many years, someone posted on alt.food.wine, a set of descriptors, that I only wish I'd have copied and pasted for future reference. It went something like this:

                            The aroma of a well-worn piano - just the sharp keys
                            The aroma of a violin case, after the Christmas concerts
                            The aroma of a wet saddle, used in a dressage comptetition by the loser of that competition
                            Etc., etc.


                            PS - sorry that I cannot do justice to that wonderful list of descriptors.

                            1. A winemaker once described brettanomyces to me as: standing in a barnyard smelling a sweaty saddle.

                              A co-worker once described a way over-oaked chardonnay as, "yeah, it's a nice if you like to drink your wine by sucking it out of a two-by-four"

                              I've described many wines I've tasted in the $4.99 range as one-note symphonies.

                              Anthony Hanson, in the first edition of his book "Burgundy" started a paragraph with the sentence, "Great red Burgundy smells of shit." (around page 142, or so). Subsequent editions modified it to barnyardy or earthy--something less blunt.

                              And then there is the famous "canoe wine" descriptor, I think of Monthy Python fame. Posting etiquette probably does not allow me to go into detail

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: 53latour

                                as a non-fan of heavy oak, I LOVE the comment about the 2x4 and will keep it at the ready for an upcoming tasting I'm planning to attend!

                                Last year, we did drag out "the baby Jesus wearing velvet slippers" for a lovely red that actually earned it!

                                Gigondas from the Rhone is famous for smelling of barn (not shit - barn)-- and I consider it a great thing, as it usually portents a great Gigondas.

                              2. Tastes like ass, with a side of ass.

                                1. I have a friend that occasionally refers to a wine as being made by Chateau Two by Four.

                                  1. The problem is that many of these descriptions are NOT sarcastic, but quite accurate. "Barnyard" is a perfectly acceptable (not to mention CLASSIC) example; so, too, is "baby poop," "kerosene" (or "petrol"), and "cat's pee" -- for a wine that has Brett, for a Mourvedre, a Riesling (especially German or Austrian, and especially with some bottle age on it), and for a classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, respectively.

                                    True sarcastic and/or hilarious wine descriptions can be a work of art.

                                    Back in the 1980s, one Australian wine critic described the first vintage of Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand as like "being strapped to Elle MacPherson and bungee-jumping in the a vat of cat's pee and gooseberry leaves."

                                    I once described the bouquet of a particular Monterey County Chardonnay as "smelling like the water in a vase full of dead and dying daisies."

                                    Back in 1975, Randall Graham commented on a particular vintage of a specific Bordeaux by saying, "Now I understand why he (the owner) committed suicide."

                                    The list is endless . . .

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      Thanks Jason, these are what I was really hoping for. Keep 'em coming, any published references that you know of?



                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        was the Chard good, despite the pong?

                                        The Maison du Vins wine museum in the Bergerac region used to have a display room with a primer on the scents of wine -- "cat urine" was one of the things you were supposed to identify by smell, along with tobacco, red fruit, etc., etc., etc.

                                      2. "...like a ballarina, quivering, on point..."

                                        When the description doesn't actually tell you anything about how the wine actually smells or tastes is when I think you are wading into pretentious territory. But there has to be an understanding of context. When I am in my "fun" tasting group, part of the fun is being creative in our descriptors (and when I say creative, read horribly off-color). Every now and then some of our descriptors creep into serious tastings becuase, well, sometimes they are just spot on and are mutually/universally understandable. And sometimes even thes "serious" tastings become over-the-top because I am not sure we all feel comfortable being so damn, well, serious all the time.

                                        If there are archives of WineX magazine, you can find tons there....

                                        One inspired by them I used once to descibe a cheap Chilean Pinot Noir
                                        "Like Britney Spears: lacking substance, deapth and thoughtfullenss but very well put togther and improbably fascinating."

                                        Oh, and the first quote, this aired on a Los Angeles radio segment about wine in about 1997/8 and those who have been around the business for a while know who it was. I just worked with him a few times and while as a person, also totally over the top and pretentious, I actualy liked him. So I won't thow him directly under the bus...just a little nudge.

                                        Just remembered once at a tasting group that was VERY seriously studying for various certifications, I described a Bordeaux Superior as having an aroma of saddle leather. Subsequently I was asked, without irony, "Wet or dry?" What!?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ellaystingray

                                          >>> I was asked, without irony, "Wet or dry? <<<

                                          I imagine if you had responded "wet" the next question would be oiled, soaped, or thunderstorm?

                                          Interesting site WineX, archives require membership/login.

                                        2. My favorite description of over-oaked Chardonnay: "a wine only a termite could love."

                                          And my favorite line from the British program Posh Nosh: "...it's pure and balanced....like a nun on a tightrope."

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Boswell

                                            Ah, yes. "This is one of those wines you *don't* want to have sex with."

                                          2. Contributed by Ric Rios in another thread...


                                            Château Brane Cantenac 2000 (Margaux 2ème Cru Classé):

                                            "I thought this Brane-Cantenac was very good. Great classic cassis nose, really nice up front fruit that slowly drifted away off the tongue in a teasing "am I gonna give you a little more? Do you want that mid palate rush? Or should I just slowly fade like as if I were a super model walking deeper into the ocean off of a sand bar into the sunset and you're staring at my ass?"

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: PolarBear

                                              Jeez! Was that sarcastic? I took it at face value.

                                            2. I am sorry, I only remember the descriptor, at least 20 years ago: "Good legs, but a wrinkly ass."

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: runwestierun

                                                Now that's funny. Can't help but think with the elective surgery attraction in today's world that the opposite might also be true in some cases.

                                                1. re: PolarBear

                                                  Has notes of Blackberry Nyquil and Brakefluid.

                                              2. Precise wording forgotten, but something like "Either 1924 was a bad year or the grape stomper forgot to change his socks".

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Akitist

                                                  "I love your wines, but I hate your cooper."

                                                2. There's a fun blog I found a couple of years ago called The Red Wine Haiku Review. It can be found at: http://redwinehaiku.blogspot.com/

                                                  This review was one of my favorites:

                                                  Royal Zin Cuvee Royall Zinfandel 'NV' (California
                                                  )This wine is a slut
                                                  Only one thing on her mind
                                                  And she's good at it

                                                  1. Wine Spectator reciently used "pencil shavings" to describe a couple of wines.

                                                    10 Replies
                                                      1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                                                        Sarcasm, Metaphor, Orgasm ... what's the difference ?
                                                        None of the above has anything to do with wine anyways.

                                                        1. re: RicRios

                                                          Well, I'm here for the sarcasm, and "pencil shavings" is a widely used descriptor that's not meant sarcastically, at least not to my knowledge.

                                                          I guess I'm saying... more stuff like "donkey defacating into vat of bleu cheese"!

                                                          1. re: RicRios

                                                            "Sarcasm, Metaphor, Orgasm ... what's the difference ? "
                                                            I know! I know, teach, please call on me. My hand is up.

                                                            1. re: wew

                                                              Go ahead kiddo, the ball is in your field.
                                                              Just beware of the Gatekeepers.

                                                              1. re: wew

                                                                Regretfully, it seems to be easier getting good sarcasm.

                                                          2. re: syrup09

                                                            The noses of some red wines (Médocs, for example) are often described as having sawed wood and graphite/pencil lead aromas, so pencil shavings isn't that far a stretch. In fact, it and variants ("like the inside of a pencil sharpener," for example) aren't uncommon descriptors and, if anything, are meant positively, not sarcastically.

                                                            1. re: carswell

                                                              Not "uncommon" in the least, at least to me, and perhaps the various wines that I taste.

                                                              I intend no sarcasm, when typing such, but maybe others have different thoughts?

                                                              When one is tasting, and then reporting, they use descriptors, that are common to their life-experiences, though those very same ones, might well be foreign, or odd, to others.

                                                              Let's imagine a person, who has grown up in a bubble, with food, and liquid being administered IV. They would have zero reference for tastes, or smells, beyond that of the bubble.

                                                              OTOH, if one has lived a full life, and has created little "index cards" of tastes and smells in their mind, they relate and refer to those. Are they universal? Probably not, but to many, will resonate.

                                                              Being a fan of the author, William Faulkner, I relate to smells, and base those relationships to my life. I try to catalog every smell, taste and even texture, that I can, and do a fair job at such.

                                                              I agree with you completely.


                                                              PS - I cannot figure out why this thread was brought back to life, and why I missed so much in the way of Replies. Odd, but that is often the way that it is, on the Web. Still, whether the Replies are from yesterday, or yesteryear, they can still be relevant.

                                                            2. re: syrup09

                                                              Now, I have picked up similar, and differentiate between the wood, and the graphite - different aromas.

                                                              Same for "turpentine," as it can be pleasant, or off-putting, but much depends on the degree and also the wine, with its other aspects.

                                                              I also find elements of "bacon," in some wines, and that can be good, or can be bad.

                                                              There is no sarcasm, when I encounter such, just comments on what I have found.


                                                            3. Don't see 'wet cardboard' listed yet. Classic fault descriptor. Sarcastic? I'm not sure.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Midlife

                                                                For TCA/TCB contamination, I often use "smells like a wet hymnal in a South Louisiana Baptist Church." For me, that hits the high (or rather low) points pretty well. If one has been there, experienced that, they will understand, and it's not a happy place.


                                                                1. re: bon oeuf

                                                                  I get that too often, and do not like it.

                                                                  Sarcasm? No, but unpleasant none the less.


                                                                2. I started a new thread, but thought the following might be appropriate here. If you've never heard of the HoseMaster (aka Ron Washam) check out the link below, one of the most creative humorous people I've even had the pleasure to stumble over or upon.

                                                                  Describing Grenache:

                                                                  These are wines that can live for decades, but are usually consumed very young, and mostly orally, in honor of the Pope.

                                                                  On Syrah:

                                                                  Syrah goes by the name of Shiraz in Australia and South Africa. An apocryphal story goes that the grape originated near the Persian city of Shiraz and that's how its alternative name came about. I find this explanation rather Iranic. Actually, no one knows how Syrah came to be known as Shiraz, though I believe that Shiraz is Syrah's rap name. Fershizzle.

                                                                  The HoseMaster's Honest Guide to Grapes Volume 4

                                                                  You can find links to Volumes 1-3 in the left margin of the website,

                                                                  WARNING: If you have a sense of humor you are about to enter a force that I can only equate to that of what science describes as a black hole. Enjoy the trip.

                                                                  Link to new thread:

                                                                  1. This thread has twigged the memory of a tasting whose star was supposed to be the new vintage of an obscenely expensive red Burgundy (DRC Échezeaux?). On opening, the bottle reeked as few I've encountered have done: a veritable miasma of merde. Still, it was poured into our glasses in the hope that the fecal odour would blow off. It didn't. It got worse. The tasters expressed their disgust and struggled to describe the foulness. Finally one had a eureka moment: "toilettes de camping," he pronounced. Everybody agreed. The wine was withdrawn.

                                                                    At another tasting, the first-ever vintage of Bacio Divino was poured. "A super-Tuscan on steroids," said one aghast taster. "This is what genetic engineering does to wine," quipped another.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: carswell

                                                                      "This thread has twigged the memory of a tasting whose star was supposed to be the new vintage of an obscenely expensive red Burgundy (DRC Échezeaux?). On opening, the bottle reeked as few I've encountered have done: a veritable miasma of merde."


                                                                      I can only say that that was bunch of "baby poop!"

                                                                      Glad that I was not at that tasting, as I have had many excellent bottles of Échezeaux and Grand Échezeaux, and loved them. Glad that I have not broken MY string.

                                                                      Thanks for the laughs,


                                                                    2. love love love all these sarcastic descriptors..

                                                                      'Put it back in the horse'
                                                                      'Tastes like ass, with a side of ass'
                                                                      'Good legs, but a wrinkly ass'
                                                                      'Has notes of Blackberry Nyquil and Brakefluid'

                                                                      1. Has everybody forgotten the classic James Thurber cartoon? I will let you do your own research. I hope you will be amused at my presumption. Even on an old post.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                                          If this is the right one.... Google is my friend: "It's a naive domestic burgundy without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption."

                                                                          1. re: Midlife

                                                                            "Citrusy and refreshing? More like sour and dull."

                                                                            1. re: Midlife

                                                                              Ah, I now see that you are at least partially responsible for bringing this "zombie thread"back to life. Still, the descriptors ring true today, just as they did in 1753, when the thread started!!!!


                                                                          2. A pile of jock straps - a Cotes du Rhone

                                                                            Urinal - a NZ Sauv. Blanc

                                                                            Frat house ash tray - Spanish red blend

                                                                            1. Got another good one literally from yesterday. When tasting a California Chardonnay the likes of which so many love to hate (lots of new french oak, super-ripe/high alcohol etc), some one said, "This is pure Cougar Juice!" I will be stealing this for at least the next six months.

                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                              1. re: ellaystingray

                                                                                Now that's classic, love it. Thanks esr.

                                                                                Was just at a tasting a couple of hours ago, old pal described and earthy/barnyard type Pinot as "shades of an old used dishrag".

                                                                                1. re: ellaystingray

                                                                                  Very funny. Reminds me of when I was still in my lowers case days and had a friend who used to refer to white zinfandel as "skirt lifter."

                                                                                  1. re: ellaystingray

                                                                                    I have to remember that one for the next discussion of Rombauer Chardonnay in the wine shop I work for here in Orange County, CA. (Those in the biz will probably get this reference more readily than others.)


                                                                                    1. re: ellaystingray

                                                                                      Three aceptions possible in the urbandictionary.com.
                                                                                      I wonder which one is being referred to.

                                                                                      1. re: RicRios

                                                                                        the problem with urbandictionary.com is the preponderance of definitions seemingly written by 12-year-old boys.

                                                                                      2. This is not a wine for drinking. This is a wine for laying down . . . and avoiding.
                                                                                        (Monty Python)

                                                                                        1. My boss is great at coming up with these just for laughs. Last night he described a 2006 Aglianico as "like being whipped five or six times with a leather belt by a dominatrix; then just as it starts to hurt she gives you a slice of fruitcake"