Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Cat Urine or Black-Currant Buds?

Joshua M. Bernstein of Gourmet recently did a Q&A with Charles Bamforth, touching on something that I find to be among the “funny-because-it’s-true” characteristics of wine and beer.

JMB: How else do wine makers and brewers differ?

CB: Brewers tend to use unappealing terms like catty, grainy and burnt, while wine guys tend to use more charming terms, like fruity. If brewers can learn some of the lexicon, we can make some of the terms more appealing. For instance, I don’t think catty is very attractive. When beer ages, it can develop a tomcat-urine flavor. Instead of saying, “This beer tastes like tomcat urine,” perhaps we can substitute the more appealing and equally accurate, “This beer tastes like black-currant buds.”

The kitty pee.

I’ve alluded to it in other posts, but this is something that somehow keeps coming up. The San Francisco Gate’s lovely wine flavor wheel (below) places the stuff in the “It Depends” category.

Yes, I agree. I haven’t tasted it so much in sauvignon blanc, as I’m supposed to, but in a really crisp pilsener, like Victory’s, yeah. It’s there. And somehow, it’s part of a great package!

I also must admit that I am a die-hard fan of beer with a barnyard flair; i.e. sour lambics.

Anyway, read the full Gourmet Q&A session with Bamforth >>

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