What does it mean if a wine has a "bolt of iron"?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

What does it mean if a wine has a "bolt of iron"?


Dear Jean-Baptiste,

Sometimes wines have a metallic note to them. It’s neither a positive nor negative attribute (unless you don’t care for that type of flavor).

How did the taster come to the conclusion it reminded them of iron and not another type of metal? We don’t typically go around sucking on pieces of iron. But if you’ve ever tasted blood, blood tastes like iron. Other irony things you may have come across include raw steak, the smell of a butcher shop, or water that comes from old iron pipes. Sometimes athletes can have a metallic, bloody taste in their mouth after a workout, and some vitamins and medicines leave a similar aftertaste. A related descriptor is “sanguine,” which is a nice way to say “bloody.” I’ve also seen wines described as “steely” and “tinny” (“tinny” usually carries a negative connotation). Metallic notes sometimes overlap with minerallity.

As far as the “bolt” in this descriptor, I don’t think the taster was referring to “a metal fastener made of iron.” Rather, they meant it as a metaphorical flash of lightning of this iron flavor. When tasting a wine, sometimes elements crescendo, or fade away, creep up or sing in harmony with other elements. Here I’m imagining that iron note was "striking. "

—Dr. Vinny

How to Taste Tasting Descriptors Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

What does the word “unctuous” mean in a wine tasting note?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the term "unctuous," typically ascribed to …

May 20, 2019

Are collectible wines still collectible after the wine has gone bad?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny talks to Penfolds winemaker Peter Gago about 50-year-old …

May 17, 2019

Why aren't bottles stored on their sides at wine stores?

Wine's Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why wine bottles need to be stored on their …

May 15, 2019

Is there a polite way to tell a winemaker that I'm not enjoying their wines?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny suggests a few etiquette tips for kindly declining an …

May 13, 2019

Do you swirl a glass of sparkling wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains why there's no need to swirl a glass of …

May 10, 2019

Is it OK to ask guests to bring expensive wine to a party?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny talks party etiquette.

May 8, 2019




Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search