Monday, May 14, 2007

Wet Dog and Cat Pee: An Innocent Palate Lost

A few years ago I swore off Chardonnay and discovered the joys of Sauvignon Blanc. Many enjoyable evenings were spent outside sipping the fruity, lively wine.

Then one day I was interviewing a man who had put his winery's Sauvignon Blanc on the map. I of course mentioned how I thought it was an underappreciated wine. With his great success with it, he aggreed, and felt more people would be drinking it over Chardonnay. And then he mentioned that he didn't agree that the varietal frequently had a cat pee aroma. What?

This was quickly followed by my signing up for a wine tasting class, where we were taught the characteristics of various wines. The cat pee issue wasn't brought up when we got to the Sauvignon Blanc--hmmm. So I went to my favorite wine shop after class and asked my tasting teacher to give me a bottle that had the cat piss aroma. The lovely New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs had been one of my favorites (and still is incidentally). I took it home and under "perfect conditions" tasted it. Low and behold, the wiff of cat pee was there. What I had always just thought of as a smell of the wine, had a characteristic odor.

So, going over my aroma wheel and looking at some of the defects, I came across mousy and wet dog--both smells I long to forget but come across on a regular basis with smelly gym socks and a large, water-loving Labrador Retriever. Can you smell these odors in run of the mill wine--or simply in cheap bottles of wine? Soon I learned that these smells are common in wine. I went to a high-end industry wine tasting and after tasting an unpleasant Pinot Noir, pulled my wine expert to the side and slyly asked her what she smelled in the glass. "Wet dog" was her immediate response. Ah-ha--it was there.

Ignorance is bliss--and sometimes very helpful when you are a social wine drinker. Once your palate gets exposed to all of these flavors and odors, you can never go back to casually tasting wine. So dear wine enthusiast, take heed before you try to find out all there is to smell and taste in that glass of wine--it is both good and bad.

But surprisingly, I keep right on trying new wines--and fall in love with several of them.


Unknown said...

It would have never occured to me. Now I will stop smelling wine before it may spoil the experience. Very funny though. I enjoy reading your blog!! Even if I am an occasioal wine drinker.

Amy said...

Sourcingcorner--Thanks for the comment. Yes, no need to really pick apart that wine--just enjoy it--you can never regain your innocence.