HOME > Chowhound > Wine >


Weirdest Tasting Notes in Wine Reviews

Sorry if a similar thread exists, I searched and didn't see one, so..... I read a review yesterday of a California pinot in which the reviewer (besides the usual berries, etc.) described notes of "gun metal" "rubber tires" and "creme brulee". Yikes! Anybody have other strange ones?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I once saw "lead pencil" as a description of a wine at a festival.

    4 Replies
    1. re: raclette

      I saw that once, too. The last thing I want to be reminded of when I'm sipping wine is chewing my pencil in frustration during SAT's!

      1. re: raclette

        Nothing weird here. "Lead pencil" is a very common descriptor, particularly applicable to red Bordeaux, and specifically the commune of Pauillac.

        1. re: raclette

          The pencil aroma comes from the incense cedar wood that's used. And the EPA would throw a hissy fit if the pencils contained real lead.

        2. I have lost it over time, but back before there was an Internet, someone posted some great tasting notes on alt.food.wine (Usenet), on a red Burgundy. He/she went into wonderful detail such as "essence of the felt in the case of a Stradivarius violin case," "reminds me of the sharp keys on a well-tuned Steinway - only the sharp keys!" I rolled for an hour, as they went on, and on. I feel that the poster's tongue was very firmly in their cheek, but it was great reading, none the less.


          2 Replies
          1. re: Bill Hunt

            OT, but Bill.............. is alt.food.wine still alive in any form. I used to post there too................ not really all that long ago.

            1. re: Midlife

              You know, I have not dropped by in some years. About the time that Adobe dropped NTTP, I really stopped using a news reader.

              My other favs., both on Hawaii, digressed to just Liberal vs Conservative, and then there were the tons of spam.

              I just flat lost interest, though I do miss many of the folk from alt.food.wine. I wish them all the best, and doubt that they have missed me.


          2. You'll find a few mixed in with this group:

            maybe some here as well
            The Red Wine Haiku Review

            1. Parker in his early days referred to an Oregonian wine as 'having the nose of wet stones', one of my favs.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                Actually, "wet stone" is a descriptor I've been using for 35+ years . . . it's very accurate, and not at all "weird." (This is not to suggest that I "taught" Parker; rather, it's that this is a relatively common term.)

                1. re: zin1953

                  I use "wet stones" for many Chablis offerings, due to the heavy mineral notes.

                  Now, back when I was taking geology classes, I never though that licking rocks might help me some day. It did.


              2. "Gun metal" and "creme brulée" are all CLASSIC descriptors for various wines -- the latter especially used with dessert wines -- and "rubber tires" is often used as a slightly less obnoxious descriptor than "burnt rubber," thus suggesting a lower concentration of mercaptans in the wine being so described.

                You want REALLY WEIRD descriptors??? Well, ones that I've used include . . .

                From "Late Harvest: Wine History of the Santa Cruz Mountains," © 1983, written by Michael Holland, with Charles Sullivan, and Jason Brandt Lewis, contributing editors:

                "1981 Cook-Ellis Santa Maria Chardonnay: . . . off-aromas in the nose show volatile acidity and turpentine, oxidized fruit, brussels sprouts . . . " (p. 41)

                "1981 Silver Mountain Monterey Chardonnay, Ventana Vineyards: . . . opulent fruit and oak fill out the aroma with a touch of pumpkin . . ." (p. 52)

                From "TASTE" magazine -- I can't find the specific issue but circa 1986-1988:

                "1983 Silver Mountain Monterey Chardonnay, Ventana Vineyard: . . . smells like dead-daisy water . . . "

                Not about a specific wine, but in a review of Chateau Julien that I did for "Notes from the Grapevine," on Monterey (California) radio station KBOQ, I wrote that the owners "made their money in the oil business and it shows in the winery."

                There are many more examples, but it's beautiful outside right now, so . . . .


                1 Reply
                1. re: zin1953

                  <making a note to avoid 1983 Silver Mountain Monterey Chardonnay, Ventana Vineyard>

                  Dead daisy water! OOog.


                2. One afternoon at a long party of food and wine,
                  we were reading the labels of the empty wine bottles.
                  We decided to play a game and try and come up with the best
                  fictitious wine descriptions.
                  The winner was "with hints of wet Russian leather".
                  We now use that often when discussing wines at our favorite restaurants.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: pacheeseguy

                    Along those lines, "an English saddle, ridden in the heat with plenty of sweat." Oh, could not wait to taste that... NOT.


                    1. re: pacheeseguy

                      And then, there are the REAL wine labels . . .

                      (I've saved this empty bottle for a quarter of a century; I reprint it here word-for-word, save for the footnotes.)

                      Monterey Peninsula Winery 1978 Northern California¹ Barbera Pleasanton² (abv 14.1%)

                      "This is the final vintage in a long and arduous, but rewarding, noble experiment on a very special Barbera patch at the Old Ruby Hill Vineyard³ begun a decade ago by Dr. Thomas⁴. If only the wine could talk, it would speak of jealous husbands, slippery characters, a wild French girl, double dealing, and heroic truck repair. For this wine, the wayward youngest sibling of an esteemed family, born of adversity, only the healer of all wounds knows for sure the destiny. It's (sic) aroma is like bok choy and bean sprouts pleasantly intertwined with honey and spice; it's (sic) taste crying for time in the bottle, full, slightly bitter with some acid sharpness. Drink with a bacon, spinach, mushroom and egg salad with a lightly spiced olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing along with buttered middle eastern whole wheat crackers, possibly while attending a belly dancing recital. Bottle aging will be rewarded."

                      ¹ "Northern California" -- no such appellation.
                      ² "Pleasanton" -- a bedroom community due west of Livermore, in the San Francisco Bay area.
                      ³ "Old Ruby Hill Vineyard" -- a once-famous vineyard in the history of California, now the site of a subdivision.
                      ⁴ "Dr. Thomas" -- Roy Thomas, DDS, owner/founder of Monterey Peninsula Winery.

                      As near as I can tell, the wine was herbal, vegetal, possibly with some Botrytis; it was over-extracted, tannic, yet high in overall acidity; it was volatile, and possibly had some Bret. (I'm guessing the belly dancer would take one's mind off the wine itself.)

                      When I opened it at approx. 6-8 years of age, I remember thinking it was better than I'd hoped, but not very good . . .


                      1. re: zin1953


                        That is fabulous, and worth saving. It reads like Faulkner!

                        Thank you for sharing,


                    2. There was the wine reviewer who wrote the wine column for a now-defunct medical throwaway mag that invariably said one wine or another tasted of tar, old leather, or tobacco, and sometimes of all three. As for turpentine, I myself tasted wines at a now-defunct NY winery that did taste of turpentine. Yuck!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: therealdoctorlew

                        Now, I do find hints of turpentine, or at least pine sap, even though it is not a Greek Retsina.

                        Maybe as I grew up with oil paints on my palette, I now appreciate hints on my palate?


                        1. re: therealdoctorlew

                          Again, however, "tar," "leather," and "tobacco" are all common descriptors -- "tar" is often used to describe Nebbiolo, for example, especially from Piedmonte; "leather" and "tobacco" are often associated with Bordeaux varieties (among others), particularly as the wine develops with age . . .



                        2. One of Parker's sub-tasters used to call certain wines "boisterous..." What could that possibly mean as a tasting term...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: penthouse pup

                            I'd guess it was used as a synonym for "lively."

                          2. A fun type of game to play while with friends and sharing interesting bottles of wine, is to print off obscure tasting notes from the internet- and make up your own for the same wine- then guess which ones are real vs made up. After a few bottles....the tasting notes get more interesting than the wine:)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sedimental

                              Now THAT sounds like an interesting parlor game. Gotta' try that one.



                            2. There are those who think this is the "best...tasting...note...ever". Jason has seen this before. We both know the author who shall remain anonymous. A mutual friend of ours was at the offline where this was poured. He told me that the wine was way worse than what was written below.
                              1993 Overnoy Arbois Pupillon

                              Nathan pulls out an odd-looking bottle, the infamous ’93 Overnoy Arbois Pupillon. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, but at the same time, no need to stick your face in its butt. Lightish color, showing plenty of signs of oxidation, despite the huge sulfur content, both free and bound, not to mention an interesting mix of mercaptans. Imagine, if you will, shoving an M-80 up the hind parts of a skunk, shoving the skunk up the hind parts of a sweaty shepherdess with a yeast infection and on her period. Now the explosion ensues- catch her week-old thong (a gift from Brad K) as it flies by. Give it a good hard sniff and contemplate the layers of aroma. Voila! You have the Overnoy. It was all I could do to actually taste it. And I’m (gag!) pleased to report that (gag!) the flavor was consistent with the aroma. Well, at least if you mix in some battery acid. A wine too dirty for me to enjoy- contemplate that and be very, very afraid.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Larry Stein

                                Parker might end with--"For hedonists only."