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Is there a polite way...

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Jeff Yeast

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Is there a polite way...

by Jeff Yeast » Thu Nov 02, 2006 10:21 am

of describing cat urine in a sauvignon blanc without turning people off? I have been told that "gooseberry" is a similar descriptor, but I don't think I've ever tasted a gooseberry so I'm not sure.

As with the bell pepper thread, I am trying to calibrate my tastes with others far more experienced with wine than myself. Is cat urine in sav blanc considered a positive or a negative? I like it a lot, but them I'm very territorial :lol:
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JC (NC)

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Re: Is there a polite way...

by JC (NC) » Thu Nov 02, 2006 10:57 am

I feel free now to describe it as cat's pee but you could say an ammonia smell. I like a little of the cat's pee smell in Sauvignon Blanc--it all comes down to balance. I've had gooseberry jam and also bought canned gooseberries to see what the aroma and taste are but find the cat's urine a closer descriptor to what I'm smelling in some SB.
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OW Holmes

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Re: Is there a polite way...

by OW Holmes » Thu Nov 02, 2006 11:13 am

I've never met a gooseberry, so I, like JC, use the cat pee descriptor, which I find both accurate and unappealing. I don't like even a little bit of it in my wine, one of the reasons I stay away from SB.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Carl Eppig » Thu Nov 02, 2006 11:19 am

Too bad there is a word similar to the "barnyard" term we use to descibe the characteristic in red wines usually from the Rhone. Using the term "bovine defecation" would certainly be a turnoff, though I have seen the aroma alone turn people off.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Bill Spohn » Thu Nov 02, 2006 11:36 am

Jeff Yeast wrote:of describing cat urine in a sauvignon blanc without turning people off? I have been told that "gooseberry" is a similar descriptor, but I don't think I've ever tasted a gooseberry so I'm not sure.


Are we to infer from that that you HAVE tasted cat's pee? Oh my!

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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Clinton Macsherry » Thu Nov 02, 2006 11:39 am

Some people use "boxwood." Not sure it's got quite the same sharpness, but it might work for polite company. For me, the word "pee" at least beats a couple of the alternatives.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Robin Garr » Thu Nov 02, 2006 11:47 am

Jeff Yeast wrote:of describing cat urine in a sauvignon blanc without turning people off? I have been told that "gooseberry" is a similar descriptor, but I don't think I've ever tasted a gooseberry so I'm not sure.


Jeff, "boxwood" is actually a decent option, assuming that folks know what boxwood is. I've often wandered past a boxwood hedge and thought, "Dang, there are cats around here!" (There used to be, and maybe still is, an indoor boxwood hedge in a Metropolitan Museum of Art sculpture garden that used to amuse me.) I assume that the active aromatic in boxwood is chemically related to the similar character in Sauvignon Blanc, it's that close.

I'm not sure what "gooseberry" is either, and more to the point, I suspect that the North American gooseberry is a completely different fruit from the New Zealand model. But "boxwood" is fine, and actually probably a more accurate descriptor than cat p!$$ because, although similar, it's more leafy and herbaceous.

Ammonia I don't get at all, sorry, JC.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Paul B. » Thu Nov 02, 2006 12:02 pm

Jeff, I love questions like this because they provoke wine lovers to stop and think about how certain aromas, normally considered unpleasant in everyday life, actually take on a laudable, noble aura when found in wine - e.g. barnyard, poop, petrol, diesel, cat's pee, tar, etc.

What's doubly interesting is that most of the above aromas have gained acceptance in wine circles, while others - mainly those specific to the non-vinifera realm - have yet to be gain full equality. It's a double standard, but what can you do.

As for your specific question, boxwood was going to be my answer, but I see that others came to it first.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Jenise » Thu Nov 02, 2006 12:27 pm

Robin said:
I'm not sure what "gooseberry" is either, and more to the point, I suspect that the North American gooseberry is a completely different fruit from the New Zealand model.


Robin, in this case I think they would be alike if you're referring to the fruit itself. When I lived in England, I had a gooseberry plant in my yard. The gooseberries I've tasted on this side of the pond are identical. which makes it safer to assume that the New Zealand model would also be identical. At least, the green ones. There are red gooseberries, too.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Robin Garr » Thu Nov 02, 2006 12:51 pm

Jenise wrote:When I lived in England, I had a gooseberry plant in my yard. The gooseberries I've tasted on this side of the pond are identical. which makes it safer to assume that the New Zealand model would also be identical. At least, the green ones. There are red gooseberries, too.


Probably so, then ... I was thinking, though, somewhere in the back of my head is a faintly remembered factoid that the fruit sold in the US as kiwi is sold in NZ as "Chinese gooseberry."

Let's see here ... yep, according to Wikipedia,
<i>The fruit gets its name from a marketing strategy, naming it after the kiwi, the national bird of New Zealand, where the fruit was first commercially popularised in 1959 by the New Zealand fruit-and-vegetable export company Turners and Growers; previously it was known as the Chinese gooseberry, but due to the Cold War, the Chinese label seemed unfit for popularization of the fruit in Western countries. Growers gradually adopted the name and in 1974 the kiwifruit became the official trade name.</i>

Now, a kiwi smells nothing like Sauvignon Blanc to me, although I suspect that blindfolded you'd be hard pressed to tell one from an underripe strawberry.

But I digress ... did your gooseberries smell anything remotely like cat p!$$ or boxwood?
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Thomas » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:07 pm

Boxwood is close to exact in my book. I have it all around my place and it does smell like cat's pee, and it is supposed to keep chipmunks at bay--it doesn't, but neither did my cat with her real pee.

Boxwood is the one to go with...

As for that kiwi fruit, Robin. I've always thought it not smells but tastes a lot like a grape.

So, Sauvignon Blanc smells like cat urine or a plant and kiwi fruit tastes like a grape. It's no wonder novices are scared off the subject of wine...
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Bruce K » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:40 pm

Mais oui -- pipi de chat.

Sounds more cultured, don't you think?
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Paul Winalski » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:45 pm

Jeff Yeast wrote:of describing cat urine in a sauvignon blanc without turning people off? I have been told that "gooseberry" is a similar descriptor, but I don't think I've ever tasted a gooseberry so I'm not sure.


Jancis Robinson quotes the classic tasting note for sauvignon blanc as "cat's pee on a gooseberry bush", meaning that the wine has that characteristic pungent aroma of cat's pee, and the very tart taste of gooseberries.

I own two cats, and I find it an excellent description of the aroma of some sauv. blancs. "Hay infusion" is a good description of the aroma of some others.

-Paul W.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Paul Winalski » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:50 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Now, a kiwi smells nothing like Sauvignon Blanc to me, although I suspect that blindfolded you'd be hard pressed to tell one from an underripe strawberry.

But I digress ... did your gooseberries smell anything remotely like cat p!$$ or boxwood?


Chinese gooseberries (aka Kiwi fruit) bear as much resemblence to the European gooseberry as Jerusalem artichokes do to regular artichokes. Not at all alike.

European gooseberries are oval, yellow fruits about the size of a Thompson's Seeless grape. The few times I've had them, I don't recall any particular aroma--certainly nothing like cat's pee. But they do have a very tart flavor, and that's where the resemblance to sauvignon blanc comes in.

The more acidic end of the sauvignon blanc spectrum tends to smell of cat's pee and taste of gooseberries. The overripe end tends to smell grassy and not taste of much of anything.

-Paul W.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Robin Garr » Thu Nov 02, 2006 2:24 pm

Paul Winalski wrote:Chinese gooseberries (aka Kiwi fruit) bear as much resemblence to the European gooseberry as Jerusalem artichokes do to regular artichokes. Not at all alike.


Right, that's what I said. ;)

I do think "boxwood" is the most accurate descriptor for the <i>aroma</i>, but it presumes that one's reader/listener knows what boxwood is and what it smells like.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Peter May » Thu Nov 02, 2006 2:33 pm

I love gooseberries, and they taste just like SB. I guess 'chinese gooseberries' got their name because they also are oval green and hairy, but there is no taste similarity.

I suggest the gooseberry descriptor came from British tasters, for whom gooseberry crumble was a common school pudding. My book names Jilly Goolden as popularising the gooseberry reference with 'like diving into a gooseberry bush' , and her co-presenter on BBCtv's Food & Drink programme as coining the phrase "cats pee on a gooseberry bush."

The Coopers Creek wine named "Cat's pee on a Gooseberry Bush." has a back label where the bar code is part of a bush and the cartoon cat is spraying it. I think that back label wasn't approved for the USA
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JC (NC)

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Re: Is there a polite way...

by JC (NC) » Thu Nov 02, 2006 2:40 pm

Silly US censors.

Robin,

"A good tip is NOT to use ammonia or ammonia based products to clean up cat urine since ammonia smells similar to cat urine, so you will be defeating the purpose." From http://www.pets.ca
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Covert » Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:25 pm

Jeff Yeast wrote:of describing cat urine in a sauvignon blanc without turning people off? I have been told that "gooseberry" is a similar descriptor, but I don't think I've ever tasted a gooseberry so I'm not sure.

As with the bell pepper thread, I am trying to calibrate my tastes with others far more experienced with wine than myself. Is cat urine in sav blanc considered a positive or a negative? I like it a lot, but them I'm very territorial :lol:


There are so many different aromatic molecules in anything that smells that it is very difficult to compare any two smells one-to-one. There are some molecules in cat pee that smell good to some people and others that might not. And of course there is no telling if two people perceive a smell the same way.

I think some wine geeks like to use terms like “cat pee” and “sh-t” to differentiate themselves from uninitiated folks who don’t know a Bordeaux from a grape. A patois of sorts. It is also a way to protect someone whose tastes you don’t know, and yourself. Upon pouring glasses from a fine bottle, if you say, You probably won’t like this if you don’t like funky smells, such as earth and maybe barnyard, the common answer is “No thanks.” You can thus prevent wasting a fine glass of wine. You can pour the person something cheap and simple instead.

So I would use the term “cat pee,” and have some Yellow Tail on hand as an alternative, with the label blinded. Some folks might not know that the yellow tail is a type of kangaroo.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Arnt Egil Nordlien » Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:36 pm

I know gooseberry very well. They are not hard to find here north in Norway. It is often found in old gardens. To me the smell of gooseberry-leafs are closer to the smell found in SB that also recalls cat-pee. Take a goseberry-leaf and rub it between your finger and smell your fingers afterwards - you have sauvignon blanc.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Thomas » Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:39 pm

Covert wrote:
Jeff Yeast wrote:of describing cat urine in a sauvignon blanc without turning people off? I have been told that "gooseberry" is a similar descriptor, but I don't think I've ever tasted a gooseberry so I'm not sure.

As with the bell pepper thread, I am trying to calibrate my tastes with others far more experienced with wine than myself. Is cat urine in sav blanc considered a positive or a negative? I like it a lot, but them I'm very territorial :lol:


There are so many different aromatic molecules in anything that smells that it is very difficult to compare any two smells one-to-one. There are some molecules in cat pee that smell good to some people and others that might not. And of course there is no telling if two people perceive a smell the same way.

I think some wine geeks like to use terms like “cat pee” and “sh-t” to differentiate themselves from uninitiated folks who don’t know a Bordeaux from a grape. A patois of sorts. It is also a way to protect someone whose tastes you don’t know, and yourself. Upon pouring glasses from a fine bottle, if you say, You probably won’t like this if you don’t like funky smells, such as earth and maybe barnyard, the common answer is “No thanks.” You can thus prevent wasting a fine glass of wine. You can pour the person something cheap and simple instead.

So I would use the term “cat pee,” and have some Yellow Tail on hand as an alternative, with the label blinded. Some folks might not know that the yellow tail is a type of kangaroo.


Covert,

Does that wine smell like what's under the yellow tail???
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by JC (NC) » Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:39 pm

Oh, so it's the leaves that smell similar to SB--not the berries. That's helpful Arnt.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Covert » Thu Nov 02, 2006 4:32 pm

Thomas wrote: Covert, Does that wine smell like what's under the yellow tail???


To be honest, I don't think I have ever tasted a white Yellow Tail, but I'm afraid a guest might think it smelled like what might have made a tail yellow; that's why I recommended blinding the label.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Doug Surplus » Thu Nov 02, 2006 5:14 pm

For people in the Southwest you could possible describe the aroma as desert juniper. Often when traveling through areas full of this bush I can smell cat pee, but it's just the bush.
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Re: Is there a polite way...

by Dave Erickson » Thu Nov 02, 2006 5:49 pm

Bruce K wrote:Mais oui -- pipi de chat.

Sounds more cultured, don't you think?


That's the line! I also explain to people that when you first smell it, you may be put off, but after a while you'll be put off if it's not there--and that is the definition of "acquired taste." (rimshot) :D

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