ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

When you describe the taste of a wine as "tar," what does it taste like?

—Charles, Burnaby, British Columbia

Dear Charles,

"Tar," "tarry," and "tarlike" all describe a component of wine that's reminiscent of … well, tar. It's not a negative descriptor—I like it when I notice a touch of tar in my Barolos or Rhône-style wines (and in my single-malt Scotches). What does tar taste like? If you've ever driven down a road that was being repaved, you may have experienced an overwhelming stench of tar, but thankfully it's much less pronounced in wine. Tar is a dark, pungent and resinous (usually stopping short of acrid) note. I also associate tar with spicy tobacco.

—Dr. Vinny


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