10 Unusual Smells You Won’t See on a Wine Label

We love wine just as much as anyone else. How can you not be intrigued by a wine label with a description “as crisp and refreshing as a cool breeze on a hot summer day?”

It is not a beverage that one gulps—though you can if you want. Instead, it is something to experience. That is one reason there are those bewitching descriptions that we see on the label.

Part of what makes wines smell so complex is the number of factors that influence what is in the glass.

There are primary smells that come from the grape variety or technically, the cultivar. There are thousands of them. However, only around 1,300 will make it into your glass. Each has its unique nuances. Think of how apples taste so different. They make up the nose of a wine.

Then, there are the secondary aromas that come from fermentation. The process of going from yeast and juice to wine involves around 30 different chemical reactions. Each one adds something to the mix.

Finally, there are tertiary smells that come from the aging process. They also add complexity, whether they spend their time in oak barrels, steel vats, or bottles. These two make up the bouquet of a wine. 

Some aromas, however, challenge us.

First, it involves some training. Humans lack the developed sense that many animals have. Sometimes, it is just a matter of whether it is good or bad. But wine can surprise you.

Smelling like grapes is actually not the norm. Few varieties can claim that distinction. (Hint: muscat is one of them.) So, what is lurking in our bottle of wine?

1 Toast or Brioche?

The fruity smells you detect are the primary aromas. Some wines lose them over time because of the winemaking and aging process. Champagne is one of them. The subtle citrus scents will slowly give way to a toasty note reminiscent of brioche.

That comes from the oak barrels in which some of them spend months or even years. Other times, it’s just the aging process doing its magic.

Oak is a fragrant wood. It only makes sense that if you store wine inside of these wooden barrels that some would rub off and make it into the liquid. Sometimes, winemakers embrace it in its new state when the scents are strongest. Other times, they prefer something more subtle. In any case, it is a pleasant smell that makes the wine more interesting.

2 Pass the Petrol, Please.

Yes, this one surprised us until we actually detected it in our glass of Riesling. Petrol or kerosene smell is another one of those primary aromas that come from grapes. It is not horrible since there is no gasoline in the glass.

Instead, it is one of the products of chemical reactions going on while the grapes are still on the vine. The compound is called 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene or TDN, for short.

TDN is a curiosity. We thought it was a fault with the wine until we learned more about what makes it happen. It turns out it is not a bad thing, but instead, a sign that things went well during the growing season, at least from the perspective of producing a quality product. 

Riesling often makes an acidic wine, especially when grown in cooler areas. Combine that with a hot, dry summer, and you have set the stage for TDN. A lot depends on Mother Nature. After all, she is a major part of the winemaking process too.

That also means that vintners have less control over TDN than other aspects of their craft. Believe us when we say that it is a pleasant sensation. It’s one aroma that you may even see on the wine label.

3 Chalk It Up to the Soil.

We will not start a discussion about terroir and its effects on wine. Suffice to say that some wines have a distinct chalk-like smell.

Many of the things we eat and drink smell the way they do is because of their mix of volatile aroma compounds. The apple has over 300 of them (LINK 3). Some of these chemicals find their way to different foods and beverages.

Some wines, specifically, Chablis or Chardonnay from this region in France may have that aroma because the vines grow in Kimmeridgian chalk.

It helps too that winemakers do not age these particular wines in oak barrels. Nevertheless, the concept is debatable in some circles. Our take was that it was in there, and we enjoyed it.

4 Who Put Butter On the Wine Label?

We probably started pushing the limit with chalk. Here is another one to have you scratching your head.

Butter is a benchmark aroma for many wines, particularly, full-bodied Chardonnays from California. The chemical making us crave popcorn is butane-2,3-dione or diacetyl. It is a secondary aroma that comes from fermentation. It is also a flavoring in popcorn.

Winemakers use a process called malolactic fermentation or MLF to soften wines that are too acidic. They introduce a special kind of bacteria into winemaking that converts the malic acid giving them their tart taste to something less mouth-puckering, namely, lactic acid. That explains the creamy mouthfeel you may detect.

The end product, by the way, is also in dairy foods and milk-based beverages.

5 Just a Little Eucalyptus for Us.

This one probably makes a strong case of the concept of the land and all its part influencing the character of wines. Stay with us.

We often detect this aroma in wines from Australia. It tends to give them an herbal quality that borders on mint. It turns out that 1,8-cineole from eucalyptus trees is the culprit.

Researchers determined that two things may cause this scent.

Leaves from nearby trees could end up with the harvest. The other possibility is the volatile oils are deposited on the grapevines. You may sometimes detect it in domestic wines too where the tree is grown. While it may sound offputting, it also is enjoyable on the palate.

6 Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut.

Someone who does not drink wine might consider a glass with the addition of this one. This tertiary aroma is a product of oak aging like the toast we discussed earlier.

You may notice a wine label talking about American and French oak. There is a distinct difference in both what you smell and feel when you drink the wine.

American oak, specifically, white oak, has a coarser mouthfeel. You will also detect aromas like coconut, vanilla, or even dill. It gives us an impression of sweetness that we enjoy. French oak, on the other hand, does not have the same bold mouthfeel. It brings spice to the mix in a more delicate fashion.

What you smell and taste also depends on the age of the barrels. Some winemakers may also choose to toast the insides to varying degrees to lend complexity to the wines.

Others may forgo barrels altogether and make do with staves or power to save on production costs. Purists would argue that it is not the same as barrel time.

7 Put a Glass of Wine on the Barby.

Glad that you are still with us.

Some aromas are harder to get than others. The threshold that people have varies. Other times, they need time to develop.

One fascinating smell we get from Syrah, Chianti Classico, and other big reds like Bordeaux is meat. It may have some smoke to it too, especially if it was aged in charred barrels.

It is often something you will notice with wines that have some age on them. It typically results from fermentation and aging which creates these chemicals jumping out of your glass. The meat smell is usually subtle with the more noticeable fruity notes out of the way.

8 Oh, for a Sea Breeze!

We think this scent speaks to the wine’s location and provides some valuable clues about food pairings without even having to read the wine label.

We often pick up a briny aroma or minerality from wines from coastal areas like Muscadet in the Loire region in France, Vermentino from Sardinia in Italy, or Albãrino from northwestern Spain. It seems almost as if the salty air has drifted onto the vines.

As you may guess, they all are excellent choices to enjoy with seafood. Stick to lighter fare so that you can enjoy the briny character of both the food and wine.

9 Do We Smell a Horse?

We will admit that some wine descriptors push the envelope. Here is one of them.

Brettanomyces or Brett is a genus of wild yeast that sometimes makes it into the wine. It can go the gamut from an intriguing spice aroma to something akin to a sweaty horse or barnyard smell. It can add complexity but may also overwhelm the wine.

That is part of the reason some vintners consider it a fault.

Brett is a tricky thing to manage. Wild yeasts are everywhere in the environment and vineyard. Some vintners even prefer the naturally occurring ones to the commercial varieties. It is often associated with wines from the Rhône in France, though it’s here stateside in Napa too.

Suffice to say that detecting it in your glass is certainly a conversation starter.

10 Who Let the Cat in the House?

We saved the weirdest one for last.

Some wines have delicate aromas that you have to tease out of the glass. Others jump right at you. Sauvignon Blanc is the quintessential example of a wine that has a lot to say. However, much depends on where it is grown.

Two French versions, Pouilly-Fumé and Sancerre in from the Loire Valley in France, have the distinction of having a benchmark of cat’s pee.

The chemical responsible for it is 4-mercapto-4-methylpentan-2-one, or 4MMP. It is part of a group of compounds known for their pungency. Think skunks, and you are the right track.

This aroma falls into that class of either you love it or hate it. Winemakers often embrace it, although you will not see that particular descriptor on the label. We like to think it gives an herbaceous note to our wine.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Wine Trivia Snippets You Didn’t Know

If wine is your pleasure, you are in good company with over one-third of Americans who drink making it their libation of choice. She is a beguiling temptress with lots of wine trivia to share.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, and even Jimi Hendrix among millions of others have fallen under her spell. It’s easy to see why. No other beverage can challenge and mystify you with its complex aromas and flavors.

But this seductress has her secrets.

Wine has many faces, judging by the numerous varieties. Some have pseudonyms. Others have thrived and attained noble status, whereas others are content to complement the local fare. But there is so much more to tell than what is on the bottle’s label that makes wine trivia fun.

1. Wine Has a Fraction of the Sulfites Compared to Other Foods and Beverages.

Everyone has seen the phrase, “Contains Sulfites” on a bottle of wine. Though rare, it can cause severe asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals.

The FDA pushed the labeling requirements after a surge in the use of sulfites as a preservative in the 1970s followed by an uptick in reported cases. Winemakers use it to control fermentation and prevent the wine from turning into vinegar.

However, wine is not the only thing that contains sulfites. It is actually hard to avoid since it is a by-product of fermentation.

You will also see it in many processed foods, including pickles, jams, canned vegetables, and even instant mashed potatoes. Dried raisins, for example, contain a whopping 1,250 ppm. The threshold for labeling is 10 ppm or higher.

2. Port Wine Grapes Are Still Stomped the Old-Fashioned Way.

The romantic image of a vineyard with workers stomping grapes still exists in Portugal. The entire process is a testament to the care that the vintners take to produce their wines.

Grapes are hand-harvested which protects them and also allows for some pre-screening of only the best. Then, it is into the lagares or treading tanks where they are crushed by foot.

The treaders follow a set routine to extract as much juice as possible but in a gentle way. First, they lock arms and trod on the wine in unison in a stage called the corte.

Next, it is the freestyle in the Liberdade stage with everyone taking their own stab at it. Then, the magic begins with the start of fermentation and fortification with a neutral spirit. The wine rests until the following spring when the vintners will then continue with the winemaking process.

3.  Wine Origins Starts With the Animal Kingdom.

My favorite piece of wine trivia isn’t about wineries and varietals.

Wine began as a happy accident at least for the primates and shrews that stumbled upon fermented fruit. Humans got into the act about 7,000 years ago, based on archaeological evidence from Iran’s Zagros Mountains.

The shards and resin residue suggest that the people made the nectar intentionally instead of it being a spontaneous occurrence.

It did not take long for the secret to spread. Researchers have found early evidence in Egypt, Georgia, and Turkey. Today, there are between 5,000 and 10,000 different grape varieties, depending on who you ask.

Many indigenous grape varieties stay at home for local consumption. Others have fallen into obscurity. The rest, as they say, is history.

4. A Bug Almost Destroyed the Wine Industry.

The European wine industry took off in the 1700s and 1800s. To keep up with the demand, France turned to America for vine stock. Inadvertently, the imports brought along a pest, a louse called phylloxera.

The American vines were resistant to it. However, it decimated the French vineyards, almost bringing them to their knees. The insect attached the roots and virtually starving the rest of the plant.

Vinters tried creating hybrids with no luck. There was even a reward offered to find a solution. The tide changed when they grafted American rootstock with French vines.

France was not the only country to suffer from the near devastation. Phylloxera nearly swept the globe, sparing few places including Chile. To this day, there is no pesticide or cure as California found out in the 1980s.

5. Spain Has the Most Vineyard Land in the World.

Some people think France or even the United States has the most land under vine. That honor actually rests with Spain. The country’s area for 2017 was a staggering 2.4 million acres.

China was second and the United States, sixth. Spain alone makes up 13 percent of the total global vineyard. It also exports the most wine, accounting for over 20 of the total global export volume. 

Airen, by far, is the most widely grown grape in Spain and the world. You are not likely to find a bottle at your local wine shop.

The majority of production goes into Spanish brandy. Vintners use it primarily as a blending grape. That is probably the reason that it has the nickname, Burra Blanca or white donkey. Tempranillo, Spain’s signature grape variety, is a distant second.

6. Many of the Most Common Grapes Can Trace Their Heritage to the Co-Called Casanova of Grapes.

The world of wine has its stories that are whispered behind closed doors too. You probably will not know the name of this grape variety.

But Riesling, Chardonnay, Gamay and upward of 80 others are among the progeny of the prolific, Gouais Blanc. As they say, it takes two to tango. So, there is also another obscure, fruit, Savagnin, not to be confused with Sauvignon Blanc and—gasp!—Pinot Noir.

How’s that for some wine trivia?

Switzerland produces the most wine of this grape with some plantings in Australia and Germany. Like Airen, Gouais Blanc is not necessarily a household name. It is a simple wine on its own. It makes its living as a blending grape. Perhaps it prefers to step back and let its progeny take the limelight.

7. One of the Most Renowned Vineyards in the World Has Over 80 Owners.

Clos de Vougeot is a Grand Cru vineyard in the region of Burgundy in France. One of its claims to fame is that over 80 people have a stake in the 125-acre plot—literally!

The reason is because of the Napoleonic Code of 1804. Napoleon Bonaparte spearheaded the creation of a new legal framework that changed post-revolutionary France forever.

One of the provisions of the new system was that all children inherited equally after the death of their parents. The result was fragmented vineyards with some only owning a row or two of vines.

However, that’s not unusual. Having just one owner is the anomaly. Interestingly, they are called monopoles or monopolies in English. Wine trivia at its best! 

8. The Most Expensive Bottle Takes a Page from History for This Wine Trivia Tidbit.

Rare vintage wines command a high price. Yet, winemaker, Loïc Pasquet of Liber Pater, is poised to take the wine world by storm. The vineyard produced only 550 bottles of its 2015 Bordeaux.

Several things set it apart from your average Graves red. In many ways, it is a winemaker’s wine with elements that an enthusiast can also appreciate.

The vines on which the grapes grew are ungrafted, harkening back to the pre-phylloxera days. It also draws on Bordeaux’s origins with rare grape varieties indigenous to France but seldom seen anymore such as St-Macaire.

The wine is also vinified and aged in clay amphorae. These two-handled vessels are the stuff of ancient Greece. The 2015 Liber Pater will fetch $33,420 per bottle.

9. Dom Pérignon Did Not Invent Champagne.

Dom Pérignon may make some of the most delightful sparkling wines on the planet. But, the Benedictine monk did not come up with the magic formula.

Instead, he perfected parts of the process that eventually made Champagne what it is today. Fermentation in the bottle occurred unexpectedly, causing it to explode. Vintners search for a solution to this volatile problem that was tapping into over 20 percent of their production.

First, Dom Pérignon refined winemaking with a careful selection of grape varieties. He also blended them while refining a way to press them to minimize the bitter tannins and get a white wine from red grapes.

No one had done it before. But what about the bubbles? Stronger, wood-fired glassware from local craftsmen solved the problem of the le vin du diable, or “the devil’s wine.”

10. Some of the World’s Best Wine Is Also the Most Counterfeited.

Château Le Petrus produces some of the exquisite—and most expensive—wines from Bordeaux in France. It’s the quintessential lesson in less is more. The 28.4-acre vineyard is unique for many reasons.

First, it is planted entirely with Merlot grapes. Most Bordeaux wines are a blend of two or more. The vintners pulled up the last of their Cabernet Franc vines, the only other variety planted.

Most of the vines are around 40 years old. While they produce less, the juice is concentrated and bursting with flavor. Every single grape or berry is hand-picked.

It can take several days to complete the harvest or a single one if the weather cooperates. Le Petrus is the definition of terroir with its one-of-a-kind blue clay soils. They are unusual for their color and chemical properties.

The entire vineyard rests on top of these soils. They challenge the grapes with their impermeability. The result is wines with powerful tannins that enhance their aging potential.

They reach their pinnacle of complexity and richness only after 15 to 45 years of aging. Opening a bottle earlier will reveal a petulant wine that will insist on decanting for a few hours.

It is no wonder that these wines command the high prices they get. It also explains their desirability on the legitimate and black markets.

Two-star Michelin restaurant, Maison Rostang, learned their value first hand after the recent theft of Le Petrus wines among other irreplaceable bottles earlier this year. The vineyard produces a mere 2,500 cases per year. The average price of a bottle is $3,244.

Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

10 Cocktail Party Trivia Snippets to Share About Rose’

If there is anything you can say about rosé, it is that it is a survivor. From its early days as the wine of choice to its decline almost into oblivion, it has stood the test of time. It is even spurring its own revolution. Rosé also keeps reinventing itself. After all, it has come a long way from its beginnings as water-downed wine.

Today, you would be hard-pressed not to find at least one rosé on any decent restaurant’s wine list. It has captured the hearts of everyday drinkers and celebrities alike. What is not to like about a libation that seizes the essence of summer and warm days at the beach? It helps that it is food-friendly too. But rosé has a long story to tell that she continues to write to this day.

If you scan the shelves at your local wine shop, you’ll likely see a host of grapes used in the production of rosés. Along with the Pinot Noir and Provence blends, you’ll see Zweigelt, Bordeaux, and Sangiovese varietals, to name a few. The colors are also varied from pale salmon to deep rose. And with both of these factors are a range of tastes and styles, sure to surprise and delight anyone.

1 Rose’ Wines Were the Thing for Centuries.

The ancient Greeks brought more to the world than philosophy and architecture. They, along with the Romans, started the proverbial wheels turning when it comes to rosé. Their idea was that diluted wines were the civilized thing to do instead of drinking them straight (LINK 1). Only a ne’er-do-well would consider that extreme. It helped that early winemaking had a long way to go toward producing a quaffable bottle. 

The Greeks did have that Retsina thing, a white wine made with the essence of pine resin, hence, the name (LINK 2). It is not for the faint of heart. Field blends were also popular back in the day. These are grapes that grow in the same plot and mingle together later in the fermentation vat (LINK 3). The mix of white and red varieties produced light-colored wines similar to today’s rosés. This practice lasted for centuries.

2 There Are Three Ways to Make Rose’ and One Cheater Shortcut.

Rosé is unique among wines in that its definition is blurry. Wines are either white or not white. Instead, rosé stands out for the ways that vintners make it. The first method is to crush the red grapes and let them macerate or steep with the skins (LINK 4). That time together gives the wine its color because of the anthocyanins. These are the pigments that make a plum, a plum and a blueberry, a blueberry.

The longer the juice stays in contact with the skins, the deeper the color becomes. The time is typically short, ranging from a few hours to two days. It also affects the structure of the final product by adding tannins and other compounds to the mix. The direct press method resembles this process but the maceration is limited to two hours or less. These are pale wines with the juice in all its purity.

The Saignée method is like the direct press way in that the contact time is short. The process involves bleeding off some of the juice that will later become red wine.  It is somewhat controversial in some segments. Some do not consider it a true rosé but instead a byproduct of red wine production (LINK 5). Then, there is blending.

This way of making rosé is a no-no in Europe, except for Champagne (LINK 4). If you think about it, it is a cheater’s way out no matter how logical it sounds on the surface. Perhaps, it is its association with coloring wine with grape concentrates like the infamous Mega Purple that dooms the practice. It rides too close to the line of methods used by bulk producers to get the color right (LINK 6).

3 White Zinfandel Was a Mistake Waiting to Happen.

We knew that there had to be a story when it comes to white Zinfandel. First, we will start with some background. All grapes produce white juice. The color of red wines comes from the skin contact time as we covered with the methods. The word around the campfire is that winemaker, Bob Trinchero from Sutter Home, ran into some problems with a batch of the vineyard’s white Zinfandel (LINK 7).

The batch failed to complete its fermentation, leaving a sweet wine in its wake. Instead of chalking it to bad luck, Trinchero kept it—and waited. What started as a blunder turned into a lucky break and the beginning a wine revolution. The end product was sweeter and deeper in color. Wines of this character took on a new name, Blush, which also describes this style of rosé.

4 Rosé Saw a Meteoric Rise in Production and Sales.

White Zinfandel may have brought the idea of rosé wines to the mass audience, but it also played a role in its decline. Things went well until the 1990s (LINK 8). The love affair was showing signs of age and the familiarity that breeds contempt. It disappeared from the wine lists of restaurants and languished in jugs on the bottom shelf. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, or in this case, France.

Tourism to this Old World wine country and slick marketing put rose’s back in the wine shops. The United States and the world caught on to the wine’s craze. From a low of 350 million gallons in 1993, production and sales skyrocketed to nearly 800 million gallons in 2018, making it a record year for rosé with no signs of stopping (LINK 9).

5 The French Drink More Rose’ Than White Wines During the Summer. 

Nothing quite says summer like a picnic and a glass of white wine, i.e., unless you are in France. The French are more likely to reach for that bottle of rosé instead. These warm months account for 35 percent of its total sales (LINK 9). That gives this beverage a seasonal quality that not many others do not, save for iced tea or hot chocolate. A similar scene exists here across the pond.

6 France Produces the Most Rose’, but Spain Exports the Most. 

France takes the prize for making the most rosé, holding fast onto almost 30 percent of the global market (LINK 9). The country has had some catching up to do to match the growing demand. Production has increased by 50 percent since 2002. The country, together with Spain, the United States, and Italy, commands 80 percent of the worldwide production. 

However, France still lags in satisfying the local thirst for the pink drink and sources some elsewhere. The country is the leading importer of rosé. Interestingly, the opposite is the case in Spain, which exports more rosé or rosado as it is known there than any other country (LINK 9). It is sixth in worldwide consumption that has declined in recent years.

7 Rosé Is a Worldwide Phenomenon.

France is not the only one enjoying this delicious nectar. The United States comes in second in consumption, albeit, a distant one at less than half. However, enjoyment worldwide has swelled from a 250-percent rise in the United Kingdom since 2002 to Sweden’s astounding 750-percent uptick (LINK 9). Hong Kong and Canada are also riding the rosé wave.

Four countries—France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States—account for nearly two-thirds of the import market. Whereas still wines are seeing single-digit growth, rosé is taking the world by storm with double digits.

8 Rose’ Is Not Just a Chick Thing.

While its pink color may denote something feminine, men have also embraced rosé wines. In fact, the consumption between men versus women is about the same in the United States, Russia, and Australia (LINK 9). And in Brazil, more men than women drink these wines. But men might be more likely to call it brosé instead, but the statistics speak for themselves (LINK 10).

Celebrities who have caught the rosé bug include Dave Matthews, John Legend, Jon Bon Jovi, and Dwyane Wade (LINK 11). It is not just for girls anymore.

9 Most of the Rosé Sold in the United States Is Around $14.99 or Less.

Perhaps it is because of the pleasant associations we have with rosé that explains it. One of the factors driving total wine sales is affordability. Sure, we could pop for a premium of $30 or more bottle. The fact remains that the majority of rosé sold and bought in the United States is less than $14.99 (LINK 12). Part of the reason is production costs.

Generally, rosé is not oaked, except for wines produced in the Rioja region in Spain (LINK 13). Instead, its fruity aromas are the star attractions. Barrel aging would only get in the way of it. That difference means that it cost less to produce rosés compared to the more complex processes and time involved with other types of wine. Rosé, after all, is meant to be drunk young.

10  Rose’ Was the One Thing that Jimi Hendrix, Andre The Giant, and Queen Elizabeth II Had in Common.

World War II was a difficult era for the entire world, to say the least. People wanted an escape from the turmoil going on around them. That gave rise to the popularity of movie theaters, drive-ins, and drinkable wine. Two iconic brands of the era have stood the test of time. Both Lancers and Mateus made rosé mainstream (LINK 1). They had a lot going for themselves as inexpensive but drinkable wines.

Ironically, the shapes of their bottles are as much a part of their brand as the contents inside of them. Lancers conjures images of amphorae, two-handled clay vessels used to store wine and other goods, dating back to wine’s infancy. Mateus resembles the flasks that soldiers carried during World War I. Both are unmistakable. Fortunately, both Portuguese wines have remained true to their roots.

They are sweet and approachable for anyone who wants to start their journey in wine. Perhaps that explains why Jimi Hendrix, Andre The Giant, and Queen Elizabeth II enjoyed Mateus so much (LINK 1, 14, 15). Drinking stories that are the stuff of legends have floated around through the ages involving the first two. The Queen, on the other hand, enjoys her libation quietly when visiting London’s Savoy.

Photo by @plqml | @feliperizo.co on Unsplash

LINK 1: https://www.guildsomm.com/public_content/features/articles/b/victoria-james/posts/rose

LINK 2: https://winefolly.com/review/retsina-wine-making-surprising-comeback/

LINK 3: https://www.decanter.com/learn/advice/can-blending-affect-taste-ask-decanter-387394/

LINK 4: https://vinepair.com/articles/the-4-ways-to-make-rose/

LINK 5: https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2012/05/saignee-rose-not-true-rose/

LINK 6: https://vinepair.com/articles/what-is-mega-purple-and-what-is-it-doing-in-my-wine/

LINK 7: https://www.sfgate.com/wine/article/White-Zinfandel-now-30-once-ruled-the-U-S-wine-2605031.php

LINK 8: https://www.guildsomm.com/public_content/features/articles/b/victoria-james/posts/rose

LINK 9: http://www.oiv.int/public/medias/3103/focus-2015-les-vins-roses-en.pdf

LINK 10: https://www.gq.com/story/brose-pink-wine-for-men

LINK 11: https://www.lamag.com/digestblog/celebrity-wine-rose-2019/

LINK 12: https://winesvinesanalytics.com/news/article/198980/Rose-Wine-Sales-Stay-Hot

LINK 13: https://www.winemag.com/2019/05/21/a-quick-guide-to-rose-wine/

LINK 14: https://www.foxsports.com/wwe/gallery/best-andre-the-giant-drinking-stories-072516LINK 15: https://www.wine-searcher.com/merchant/107118

Say It Right

I had a botany professor in grad school who often talked about a colleague that he admired. He said this man made it his goal to know the names—scientific ones for him—of all the plants he encountered. He thought it was the best way to get to know them.

If you know Latin, pronunciation isn’t difficult. After all, English is a Latin-based language. When it comes to wine, you might often find yourself treading some rough waters. French, Spanish, Italian, and all the others have their idiosyncrasies. And don’t get me started about dialects.

I have made it my mission to take the same care with pronouncing the names of wines. I want to say it right. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a gesture of respect.

You Say Grenache, and I Say Garnacha

Of course, it’d be a helluva lot easier if everyone used the same terms. You don’t have to delve too far into the wine world to stumble upon that fact.

Take Grenache, for example. That’s how we spell and say it here and in France. Spain prefers Garnacha or Garnatxa. And when in Italy, do as the Italians do and call it Cannonau. Sometimes, those names are quite telling.

Take Gouais Blanc, for instance. Not necessarily a name that rolls off the tongue, it is actually the Casanova of the grape world, partly responsible for over 80 varieties. You don’t usually see it as a varietal. It’s more of a blender, particularly with sparklers. Its name means “white donkey,” fitting for a grape for this purpose. (I like Casanova better, myself.)

Sometimes, wines are named for the variety. Other times, it’s the region, vineyard, or something made up by the vintner. But, there’s always a story.

I personally like the fact that some French wines don’t bother with putting any more info that the name of the Château and perhaps a sketch of one of the larger estates.

Learning How to Get It Right

If you’re not familiar with other languages, you can still pronounce the names like a pro. Google Translate is an excellent way to learn how to say it right. Another helpful source is the Wine & Spirit Education Trust‘s page on pronunciation.

While researching this article, I came across the usual roundup of web pages with their hints for getting it right. They had the common tongue twisters like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and Gewurztraminer. I also found one talking about Shiraz.

I’m one of those people who have a thing about how to pronounce a short a for certain words. Saying cat with that aa sound works for them. However, for me, it’s data with an ah sound.

I’m reminded of the scene in Woody Allen’s movie, “Radio Days” when Mia Farrow’s character is taking diction lessons. So, imagine my surprise to learn that Australians pronounce Shiraz with the second syllable sounding like jazz instead of Shir-ahz. Okay, I give in. It’s Shir-azz.

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China and Its Role in Its Burgeoning Role in the Wine Industry

Wine might not be the first thing you associate with China, but hang on to your seats. It’s an up-and-coming country and a major player in the market.

The figures are impressive. The country has 11 percent of the worldwide area under vine, second only to Spain at 13 percent. It has 870,000 hectares in production, nearly a 15 percent increase from 2013. That’s almost double the acreage in the United States.

In terms of wine production, it ranked seventh in 2017 even given the fact that 83 percent of its grapes are of the table variety. The United States takes the top honor in wine consumption, but China isn’t too far behind.

Exports and Imports

But, China keeps its wine to itself and doesn’t rank in the top 12 for exports. Even Lafite Rothschild‘s production in the country is staying within the borders. Imports, however, are a different story.

China ranked fifth in the world in 2017 with 7.5 million hectoliters. That is nearly double the volume from 2013. Imagine where that is going in the years ahead, especially given the fact that the United States only increased 7 percent during the same period.

Indeed, the country is influencing the global market tremendously, especially in France and particularly in Bordeaux.

Chinese Wine

China grows international grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier. However, people have a strong preference for reds over whites. The influence of France is keen with plantings of Petit Verdot and Petit Manseng too.

It’s both an exciting and evolving time in the wine market. It remains to be seen where the trajectory will take the industry. But with all the players and the politics, it’s sure to be a bumpy ride.

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