Why Barnyard?

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Why Barnyard?

Postby Maria Samms » Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:11 pm

Ok,

I have been reading tasting notes and often come across descriptors that sound repulsive to me, yet they are used in a positive way... ie, "barnyard", "petrol", "ashphalt", "cat pee", etc. What makes these elements positive in small amounts? Do they add to the complexity of wine? Do they arouse nostalgia in the drinker? Like if you taste barnyard it reminds you of your summers on the farm? Or if you taste petrol and ashphalt are you reminded of your days at races...LOL? Or are they helpful in identifying the type of wine or the varietal?

If you do like these qualities, was it immediate or was it something that developed over time?

I haven't experienced any of these yet. I am not sure if it's because I have an underdeveloped palate or if it's the wines I am tasting. Just curious to hear all of your thoughts on the subject.
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Gary Barlettano » Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:45 pm

Maria Samms wrote:Ok,

I have been reading tasting notes and often come across descriptors that sound repulsive to me, yet they are used in a positive way... ie, "barnyard", "petrol", "ashphalt", "cat pee", etc. What makes these elements positive in small amounts? Do they add to the complexity of wine? Do they arouse nostalgia in the drinker? Like if you taste barnyard it reminds you of your summers on the farm? Or if you taste petrol and ashphalt are you reminded of your days at races...LOL? Or are they helpful in identifying the type of wine or the varietal?

If you do like these qualities, was it immediate or was it something that developed over time?

I haven't experienced any of these yet. I am not sure if it's because I have an underdeveloped palate or if it's the wines I am tasting. Just curious to hear all of your thoughts on the subject.


I don't know about the other folks, but these descriptors are fairly literal for me. Sometimes when I drink a Pinot Noir, I literally get a whiff of chicken poop which I then politely refer to as "barnyard." This goes for the other descriptors as well. And you are right. Why would anyone want to drink something whose smell is described in this way? Well, I guess it's the association with and the promise of a great tasting wine. Think Limburger cheese or very well aged provolone. They smell like feet, but taste great. So what happens, I guess, is that these odors actually become pleasant and no longer offend ... once you jump over the hurdle and taste that mephitical wine or malodorous cheese.
And now what?
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:49 pm

I have only noticed barnyard, asphalt and cat's pee in subtle measures, and they are not terms I use frequently in tasting notes. Too much barnyard is definitely a fault, but in limited amounts can be good. Cat's pee is something I (mercifully) do not associate with SB, but I think I can see what others mean. Asphalt I sometimes get on Barolo, but I don't get too exited by it one way or another.

Petrol OTOH is something I nearly always notice on Riesling. More so than others I think. I think it is wonderfully palate-cleansing, and food-friendly. Try an Australian Riesling of more than a few years old and you cannot miss it. In fact discovering the petrol notes of a mature Alsace Riesling was one of those "wow" moments of my learning to appreciate wine.
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Ian Sutton » Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:50 pm

Yes I agree that there is a mental hurdle to jump - perhaps similar to the jump from sweet to savoury in food.
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Carl Eppig » Wed Feb 28, 2007 8:52 pm

Most if not all of what you are describing are aromas rather than tastes. Although there is usually a direct relationship between the two, it is not always so. I have found the aroma of barnyard in Hermitage, cat pee in Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, and petrol in Riesling de Alsace. None of these got beyond the tongure tip to mid palate, and the wines were wonderful or close to it.

If barnyard in particular survives the trip all the way down your gullet, chances are you just met Mr Brett.
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Mark Lipton » Wed Feb 28, 2007 10:07 pm

Maria Samms wrote:
If you do like these qualities, was it immediate or was it something that developed over time?

I haven't experienced any of these yet. I am not sure if it's because I have an underdeveloped palate or if it's the wines I am tasting. Just curious to hear all of your thoughts on the subject.


Keep in mind, Maria, that these words are often at best an approximation for what's being smelled. There are obviously many smells in a barnyard and even asphalt presents some variations (on another wine forum, I just learned that CA asphalt smells different than French). What I refer to as barnyard I find pleasant in an offbeat way: it offers complexity to a wine. If it were more pronounced, however, it might become unpleasant (a majority of people actually like the smell of skunk at very low concentrations, but that number goes to zero when the concentration goes up 1000-fold). As you gain experience with older wines, you'll find yourself returning to those descriptors for the so-called "secondary" and "tertiary" aromas. It's easier than the alternatives, I guess.

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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Thu Mar 01, 2007 4:39 am

Carl Eppig wrote:Most if not all of what you are describing are aromas rather than tastes. Although there is usually a direct relationship between the two, it is not always so. I have found the aroma of barnyard in Hermitage, cat pee in Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, and petrol in Riesling de Alsace. None of these got beyond the tongure tip to mid palate, and the wines were wonderful or close to it.

The relationship between smell and taste is: you continue to smell the aromas when it is your mouth but you think it is a taste, which it is not.

Interesting that you do not perceive these aspects in the mouth Carl. I certainly do - it is very rare I smell something on a wine and do not also perceive it in the mouth. Seems to be another interpersonal difference. Does the same apply to fruit aromas for you?
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Otto » Thu Mar 01, 2007 5:43 am

Though these scents really do smell like their real life counterparts (for me anyway), they do tend to be found in much smaller doses in wines. I think that ripe fruit does need something a bit "nasty" to counterbalance it and make it interesting - adding complexity if you will. It's a bit like what I've heard about perfumes: apparently some "shitty" scents are added to some of them as well because they would be too unctuous otherwise!

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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Covert » Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:52 am

Maria,

I’m glad that you joined this forum. You bring up subjects that pique my interest, just like the wine aspects in question, do. There were some really good responses to your question, but nobody yet seemed to tackle it head-on, or applied directly to the psyche.

You actually asked a metaphysical question: why is something attractive. Metaphysical questions can be asked for centuries with no answers really possible on the conscious level, where the questions are addressed. In my opinion, wine addresses these questions on an unconscious level and provides answers in the only form that they are possible: intuitive.

Therefore, no one can say why these flavors/aromas/aspects of wine talk to us in this way, we just learn that they do, so we associate these aspects with deep answers, in the way that we might associate the works of master painters, such as Vermeer; or great composers of music, with both the deepest questions and answers, without actually knowing what they are. We just feel closer to them.

I for one didn’t acquire a taste for tertiary flavors in wine. My first encounter with them told me that I had discovered something important to me.

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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Paul Winalski » Thu Mar 01, 2007 1:45 pm

I, too, use these descriptors often, and I find the sensations pleasant in moderation.

What I can't understand is how anyone can enjoy eating a durian. :shock:

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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Kyrstyn Kralovec » Thu Mar 01, 2007 4:10 pm

Maria,

I'm just starting to taste and learn about wine as well, and I'm having a tough time noticing some of these nuances also. I recently took a wine certification course, and when we tasted an alsacian riesling the instructor pointed out the "petrol" aroma. So as I sat there thinking "this smells NOTHING like gasoline to me", he pointed out that petrol can be used to describe rubbery or plasticy notes too. He then mentioned "water-wings" (you know, those little floatation devices people put around their kids arms in the pool?) and then lo and behold...I could smell it!

I recently drank a bottle of the Kim Crawford 2006 SB, and I assure you that I in no way smelled cat pee...and I should know, having had several "naughty" cats over the course of my life!

I think that as we experience these wines with people who have been doing it for a long time, as they point out what is typical for a certain wine, we'll come to notice it more and more.

And thanks for all your great questions! I'm learning alot from reading the responses to them.
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Paulo in Philly » Thu Mar 01, 2007 5:27 pm

Becoming aware of what you taste and smell is the key to true enjoyment of wine, in my opinion, Maria. Here are a couple of things that have helped me to become more aware:

1. A bigger and taller glass with a bigger bulb. I swirl and sniff and I try to identify and articulate and put into words what I get out of the wine. I just don't do this once - I keep at it over and over - this is fun to me. I also continue to pay attention throughout the evening as I enjoy the wine - sometimes other things start popping up as the wine opens up.

2. I sip the wine and I suck in air - a trill, I believe it is called. This helps to kick up the volume, so to speak, and it guarantees to bring out the character of the wine, at least in that particular moment. When I am home alone I make a lot of noise, when I am out with friends I try to be more graceful. LOL. We do experience wine with the olfactory gland, through vapors going through the the nasal passages just above the mouth/throat. Try tasting wine or enjoying food with a head cold - your experience is diminished because of your congestion.

3. Descriptors are just someone else's vocabulary describing their wine experience. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don't. I drank Italian wine for many years before I became aware of the "barnyard" descriptor. I learned to articulate what for years I enjoyed without being aware. I have also recognized it in other wines that were way too pronounced for my taste, and therefore not pleasing. I remember some Rhone wines that were too off-putting, but after I let the wine breathe and open up the "barnyard" was a lot more subtle and quite wonderful.

Don't worry about not getting what others say; instead, focus on what you truly get and be as creative as you want with describing your wine experience. It is your wine experience and that is all that truly matters.

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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Eric Ifune » Thu Mar 01, 2007 7:46 pm

What I can't understand is how anyone can enjoy eating a durian.


I do. I admit it smells like an open sewer, but tastes like banana custard. It is one of the few things I know that doesn't taste anything like it smells.
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Steve Edmunds » Fri Mar 02, 2007 3:25 am

With respect to the "Barnyard" descriptor, if you think in terms of an aroma wheel, there is a very fine line between the smell of horse manure, and the smell of lilacs... so whatever part of lilacs is suggested in the smell that also seems to point to horse manure, that will likely attach at least some measure of positive association to horse manure. The ability to tolerate the suggestion of horse manure will vary greatly from person to person, so if your tolerance is low you're less likely to find something to like if you think you detect the manure smell. Way it goes.
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Randy Buckner » Fri Mar 02, 2007 3:54 am

there is a very fine line between the smell of horse manure, and the smell of lilacs


And just how long have you had this sinus thing going on? A little Biaxin will work wonders.... :shock:
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Thomas » Fri Mar 02, 2007 9:45 am

steve.slatcher wrote:
Carl Eppig wrote:Most if not all of what you are describing are aromas rather than tastes. Although there is usually a direct relationship between the two, it is not always so. I have found the aroma of barnyard in Hermitage, cat pee in Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, and petrol in Riesling de Alsace. None of these got beyond the tongure tip to mid palate, and the wines were wonderful or close to it.

The relationship between smell and taste is: you continue to smell the aromas when it is your mouth but you think it is a taste, which it is not.

Interesting that you do not perceive these aspects in the mouth Carl. I certainly do - it is very rare I smell something on a wine and do not also perceive it in the mouth. Seems to be another interpersonal difference. Does the same apply to fruit aromas for you?


Steve is right on. Plus, every one of the descriptors--barnyard, cat pee, petrol, etc.--has a true chemical answer, mainly the product of fermentations (primary and secondary) meeting with grape juice components and the juice's nutritional balance.
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby ClarkDGigHbr » Sat Mar 03, 2007 3:30 pm

Covert wrote:Maria, I’m glad that you joined this forum. You bring up subjects that pique my interest, just like the wine aspects in question, do.


I second this note of recognition. Questions like these are a great departure from scanning through wine review comments (which are often very useful) and the periodic rants (which are too typically not). This is what makes this Forum so valuable, giving every participant the opportunity to raise legitimate questions in a safe and respectful environment. It's great to see how quickly others chime in to help out by sharing their knowledge.

Of course, the occasional wise crack jokes amongst long-time Forum friends can be very amusing. After all, we are all human, and we can't live on wine alone.

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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Maria Samms » Sun Mar 04, 2007 12:02 pm

These are all such wonderful and informative responses! Answers like these really help me appreciate wine to it's fullest potential. Thank you all so much!

Gary Barlettano wrote:Well, I guess it's the association with and the promise of a great tasting wine. Think Limburger cheese or very well aged provolone. They smell like feet, but taste great. So what happens, I guess, is that these odors actually become pleasant and no longer offend ... once you jump over the hurdle and taste that mephitical wine or malodorous cheese.


Thanks Gary...this answer really helped me understand some of those descriptors. I do love stinking cheese! And I can really understand the connection now. Stinky cheese wasn't something I loved since childhood though, it's definitely something I have come to appreciate over time. I suspect that is going to be the case with some aspects of wine...which I am looking forward to doing of course!

Paulo - Thank you for some tips on tasting. Very useful!

Paulo in Philly wrote:We are due for a NJ/PA offline this spring!!!!


ABSOLUTELY!

Quote:
What I can't understand is how anyone can enjoy eating a durian.

Eric Ifune wrote:I do. I admit it smells like an open sewer, but tastes like banana custard. It is one of the few things I know that doesn't taste anything like it smells.


Interesting Eric...after you and Paul posted this, I was curious because I never heard of a durian. So I researched it...very different fruit! It was fun to learn something new and now I want to try one!

Thanks again everyone for sharing all your knowledge with me! I really appreciate it!
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Mar 05, 2007 12:14 am

Maria Samms wrote:Just curious to hear all of your thoughts on the subject.


Maria, I can't believe I don't have a reply in this thread ... I could have sworn I posted something earlier. Not much to add at this late date, but of course I will anyway. ;)

Here's a summary paragraph from a Wine Advisor article I wrote about brett back in 1999:

<i>Personally, I can take a little of it, as long as that "barnyard" quality forms an elusive overtone that evokes country lanes on damp summer nights; but when it gets excessive (the country lane leads into a working chicken farm), it's a little too much for me!</i>

If you want to read the whole article ... it's eight years old, and possible my opinions may have evolved a bit, but what the heck ...

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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Mon Mar 05, 2007 7:05 am

It's probably also worth pointing out that "barnyard" is like "oriental spices" and "tropical fruits" in the sense that each term can be used to cover a huge range of aromas that actually have little in common. I notice for example a couple of references to chickens in this thread, whereas the barnyards around where I live would be more likely to stink of cow manure and or silage.
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Thomas » Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:01 am

steve.slatcher wrote:It's probably also worth pointing out that "barnyard" is like "oriental spices" and "tropical fruits" in the sense that each term can be used to cover a huge range of aromas that actually have little in common. I notice for example a couple of references to chickens in this thread, whereas the barnyards around where I live would be more likely to stink of cow manure and or silage.


Steve,

I submitted one of my regular columns to a local entertainment mag and the editor is upset at my use of the phrase "cow dung" to represent a particular aroma that can pop up in wine. I just decided that I am going to have to clean it up by using the term "barnyard."

Right after that decision made, I sign onto the Internet to get my morning jolt of non-editors and I read your post!
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:01 am

steve.slatcher wrote:I notice for example a couple of references to chickens in this thread, whereas the barnyards around where I live would be more likely to stink of cow manure and or silage.


I should probably fear to tread here, as a city boy who has spent very little time on farms, but at the risk of unintentional hilarity, I find a clear distinction between wines (older-style Burgundies, some Northern Italian reds) that have a distinct cow-manure character, versus the distinctly chicken-manure character of older Chateau de Beaucastel. I'd call them both "barnyard," but it's a very different barnyard.
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Thomas » Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:03 am

Robin Garr wrote:
steve.slatcher wrote:I notice for example a couple of references to chickens in this thread, whereas the barnyards around where I live would be more likely to stink of cow manure and or silage.


I should probably fear to tread here, as a city boy who has spent very little time on farms, but at the risk of unintentional hilarity, I find a clear distinction between wines (older-style Burgundies, some Northern Italian reds) that have a distinct cow-manure character, versus the distinctly chicken-manure character of older Chateau de Beaucastel. I'd call them both "barnyard," but it's a very different barnyard.


Robin,

See my post above yours. I suppose some editors are afraid of the real thing...
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Re: Why Barnyard?

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Mar 05, 2007 10:07 am

Thomas wrote:See my post above yours. I suppose some editors are afraid of the real thing...


Simultaneously posted at 8:01, it appears!

Thomas, I rarely take up for editors, but I think the good ones are pretty good at intuiting what community standards will bear, and this guy is probably not being a bluenose so much as saving himself having to deal with dozens of angry phone calls from local prudes. Having taken a few of those calls, I can't say I blame him. Some battles are <i>worth</i> fighting ...
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