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. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
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Dear Dr. Vinny,
What causes the "metallic" taste in some wines? I've asked many experts and have had many different answers.
—Carlyn Whitehouse, Bordeaux, France
I'm not surprised you've received many different answers, because there are many different reasons why a wine might taste metallic.
First off, there's a difference between "good metallic" and "bad metallic." Some excellent Sauvignon Blancs and Rieslings might be described as "steely" or "flinty" (positive descriptors that are often attributed to grapes grown in mineral-rich soil). On the other hand, unpleasant metallic or "tinny" notes can come from brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast. "Metallic" can also refer to a tactile sensation that comes from low-ethanol, dry, high-acid wines, or to the astringent feel of some highly polyphenolic wines.
Also, there are combinations of both medication and food that can impart a metallic taste to wine. I've experienced this anytime I've been on antibiotics—or tried to pair red wine with sushi.
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