by contributing writer Steve Gross
Reading descriptions of some wines, you wonder why anyone would drink them at all. Cigar Box? Leather? Barnyard? What gives?
Ironically, these are some of the aromas that bring many wine drinkers clamoring to certain wines, all across the price spectrum. When those smells integrate into a cohesive whole, and when the wine’s mouthfeel and finish are smooth and pleasing, you’re really onto something.
It’s ironic that menthol is a desired aroma in some wines, and I haven’t seen a pack of Kool or Newport cigarettes for years. If it really improves the wine, bring it on, man.
Personally, I like aromas like forest floor, mint, eucalyptus, bramble (the earthy smell of forest undergrowth and berry vines), and leather. They need to fit in with the other components of the wine, but when they do, they really add dimension and enjoyability to the wine.
What about rocks, you say. Most of us don’t even know what rocks taste like, since we’ve had the good sense to avoid putting them into our mouths. However, in the wine world, rocks have a lot to add. There really is a smell to wet rock (I know because I’m a fly fisherman and I spend a lot of time in rivers), and it’s quite pleasing, kind of like the air smells after a summer rain.
Rieslings, Viogniers, and Torrontes, three aromatic white wines get some of their specialness from their stony aspects. In fact, the first wine I ever experienced as minerally was a Viognier. Chablis, the flinty, crisp Chardonnay of northern Burgundy, is treasured by many for its stoniness (yes, that’s now a word).
So, the next time you swirl your wine and breathe it in, give those rocks and that dirt some play. I think you’ll be surprised at what you get.
Do you have a rocky, earthy wine that you especially like? Let us hear from you.
Steve Gross likes wine that smells good, moves him to states of reverie, and demands a second, third, or fourth taste. Seeking these wines keeps him busy, but he somehow finds time to work as a Special Education Teacher and to guide birdwatchers throughout Texas and the Western US. Look for Steve wherever great food and wine, mountains, birds, and fresh air are found.