Wine Talk

Snooth User: whythulc

Odd flavors vs. not super great wine?

Posted by whythulc, Nov 17, 2010.

I'm new to this wine thing. I'm drinking a glass of Luna di Luna Merlot/Cab blend from 2008. It's Italian, and I got it for about $13. My question is, how do you tell the difference between a cheap wine that doesn't have much flavor to it, and a wine that just has different flavors than what I've tried before?

This wine in particular isn't very dense in flavor. It has just a pretty basic mineral taste with a hint of a bready finish. 

I'm sure I'll answer my own question as my tasting expands and I have tried more wines, and taste depends on the perosn, but I just don't want to write something off if it's good and it just is weird because I haven't tasted anything like it before. Does that make sense?


Reply by Stephen Harvey, Nov 17, 2010.

One factor effecting depth of Flavour is the yields they crop vineyards at.

Intensely flavoured wines generally come from low yielding vineyards - say < 2 tonnes per acre or 5 tonnes per hectare

In overly simplistic terms, water the vines intensely and they will produce more bunches with larger berries, due to water content the flavour profile of the grapes will be less intense.

Some vineyards in irrigated regions are cropped at >16/40 tonnes per acre/hectare, needless to say these go into very light wines lacking in intensity of flavour and are very cheap.

Hope that helps

Reply by dmcker, Nov 24, 2010.

Another issue is, of course, the condition of the wine. You need to be able to recognize when a wine's corked, and when it's oxidized, and when it's otherwise damaged. This will come with time, and is, for example, the only reason for sending a wine back at restaurant--not because you don't happen to like the wine you just ordered....

Reply by Andrew46, Nov 24, 2010.

It sounds like you got a wine that is not particularly full flavored, and not very balanced as well.  To me, not having outstaning aroma is something that happens.  Being out of balance is a mistake by the winemaker.  To be fair, different winemakers have different perceptions of what balance is, but wine should taste good.

Reply by zufrieden, Nov 27, 2010.

I'm not sure I can tell of the balance from the description (though that certainly could be an issue with a modest wine), but the bread-like quality on the palate speaks of yeast and that's not especially good - unless you are talking of cheap beer.

Of course, it depends on what you mean by your description (yes, it's true: there are few agreements on what is meant by primary qualities - John Locke notwithstanding...).  Though I have not tried this wine, your comments altogether suggest that the wine lacks depth - that central core that delivers the flavor to the palate. 

Maybe the question to ask is: did you enjoy the wine?  Or perhaps a better question might be: did you enjoy the wine when taking the price into account (value)?  I tend to find that almost everyone shares the basic love of depth, balance (everything in its proper place, intuitively speaking) and subtle nuances of flavor that bang a gong saying: "this is something very, very special". Your wine may just be something to wash away workweek woes or an accompaniment to a light novel.

Although there are many books that try to steer one in the direction of wine appreciation (which can be extremely personal - but that's what brings us aesthetes together), I recommend one by the late Canadian wine critic Andrew Sharp: Winetaster's Secrets. This far-and-away the best introduction to wine criticism I have ever seen and was endorsed by none other than HRM Robert Parker when first published  in 1995.

I wish you luck finding a copy, as it may be out of print.  In any case, keep experimenting in the 10-20 dollar price range per bottle.  There is a lot of value to be had - especially around the 15-20 dollar mark.  Follow the reviews in the local paper and see if you agree with them.  That is a usually a pretty good place to start.

Or better yet: keep those forums coming!


Reply by wineydoc, Nov 28, 2010.

i appreciate your frustration, whyt.  i've recently been trying some wines that the wine stores are calling an "earthy aroma," that i think just smells like fresh dog poo.  with one wine, my husband agreed with me that he didn't like it either, but he didn't agree with me about the aroma.  we both threw it out at the wine tasting.  the other, he said he liked, but, again, didn't pick up the aroma.  i'll admit, it wasn't as strong with the 2nd wine, and the taste was fine, as long as i didn't aerate it on the tongue too much.  is it just me?  is the wine not good? what's the difference between earthy & minerally?

Reply by zufrieden, Nov 28, 2010.

This thing about aroma is a difficult one because of the intercession of language as the true delimiter of reality.  As Mr. Sharp often remarked, it is quite surprising how much coincidence there is between persons of informed (and sometimes uninformed) opinion.  

In answer to your specific question about the difference between "earthiness" and "mineral flavors", let me lend a bit of assistance - bearing in mind that my view is my own in convergence with that of many other so-called critics.  Mineral flavors are those which bespeak of hard water characteristics - those with almost stone-like flavors one might recall from licking a piece of clean granite.  "Earthiness", on the other hand, might be compared to the scent of earth after a light rain.  You need to recall these olfactory experiences by testing my remarks against your own experimentation.

Now I completely accept the subject element of taste preference and (even) slight, statistically determined differences between individuals in terms of how we reflect upon our tastes in words.  These remarks are but guides.

Happy tasting!

Reply by Uwe Kristen, Nov 29, 2010.

I think zufrieden hits the nail with the description of mineral/earthy. I would like to add the barnyard aroma of Old World Pinot Noirs as an "earthy" character, though.

Sometime spontaneous fermentation with natural yeasts may add a light stink to the aroma of a wine. But that dissipates usually after a few minutes in the glass.

Reply by zufrieden, Dec 4, 2010.

Barnyard also evokes the additional elements of must and farm stock (animals and their various scents - including dung).  Earthy to be sure, but also a bit more stringent and pleasant in a rather unexpected way - if I may be so bold as to put it that way.



Reply by rahnjoseph, Dec 6, 2010.

I have also tasted the cheap wines from australia but i have to say that it tastes awesome and without any doubt the finest of quality. And i suggest to taste it ones from winegrowersdirect from australia.

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