Flavor Profiles


In college (okay, maybe high school), the grown up beverage of choice was beer.  Consumption at this young adult stage had a far different purpose before gaining the wisdom acquired today.  After college graduation I embarked on a career in sales for a Four Star Five Diamond hotel.  The sudden transfer from tailgating in a parking lot around a keg of the cheapest beer available, to wearing a suit and tie was a change.  Entertaining clients at dinner required ramping up my wine knowledge.   This exquisite hotel proved to be a great training ground.

 

Many years ago in my early professional career the wine descriptors at the time were far more basic than today.  Twenty five years ago I would discover adjectives to describe the flavor notes of wine such as:  jammy, oak, cherry, tobacco, chocolate.  Today, the wine world has some more offbeat terms to describe wine aromas and flavors.  Here are some descriptors used by wine sommeliers today descriptors:

 

  • wet dog (used to describe a flawed wine that is musty),
  • gasoline/petrol (often used to describe positive attribute to Rieslings),
  • cat piss (used an aroma descriptor for certain Sauvignon Blancs),
  • pencil shavings/pencil lead (this is a flattering distinction of aroma often attributed to red wines of Bordeaux
  • baby diaper (used to describe more commonly oak aged Chardonnays from Burgundy. The clarification for whether is is new or used is unknown)

 

 

The beauty of sake is it’s simplicity.

Yet distinguishing tasting and aroma profiles can require great skill and experience.  What are some common descriptors associated with sake?

 

  • Fruits Aromas:  Apple, Pear, Strawberry, Melon, Banana, Lychee
  • Fungi Aromas:  Cereal, Grainy, Rice Bran, Koji
  • Sweet Aromas:  Caramel, Honey, Brown Sugar, Dried Figs
  • Cedar Aromas:  Grassy, Rose Petals
  • Acidic Aromas:  Sour, Vinegar, Yogurt

 

 

The following are some common tasting descriptors:

 

  • Sweet vs. Dry:  banana, melon, pear, cotton candy vs. earthy, mineral, stone
  • Body:  Light, textured,  viscosity, watery, thin, heavy,
  • Acidity:  sour, astringent, earthy
  • Finish:  Long lasting vs, Short  – supple, smooth, round  vs, quick, sharp
  • Savory:  Umami, Rich,

 

In general, when comparing wine to sake, sake is more about umami.  On the other hand, wine is more about acidity.  Wine usually contains more chemicals and preservatives than sake.

 

These are just some guidelines to consider.  Knowing some terminology can help heighten the senses.  Overall, sake is very approachable.  It is less fussy than wine, yet more mysterious.  Most of all sake is loaded with exceptions.  Not all categories of sake can be attributed to certain flavor profile.