What are these earthy aromas in my wine?

Go back to the Wine Aroma Dictionary

This part of the wine aroma dictionary let you discover earthy aromas which are categorised as:

  • moldy, and
  • earthy

This is still a work in progress and we will add regularly new descriptors extracted from the wine aroma wheel

Feel free to leave a comment or question at the bottom of the page.


  • Aroma: Moldy Cork
  • Category: Earthy 
  • Type: Moldy
  • Aroma definition: Aroma evoking a moldy cellar/damp basement due to the presence of fungi producing a volatile compound called 2,4,6 tri-chloroanisole or TCA. 
  • Wine style: It is an off-flavor, a taint that is not desirable in wine, however harmless if consumed. While a corked tainted wine can have a perceptible moldy and earthy smell, it mutes the wine flavor, especially the fruity aroma, when present at a lower concentration.
    Like any other taint, it is recommended to send back the tainted bottle to the wine store or at the restaurant and ask for a fresh bottle.
  • OriginA corked wine is tainted as the result of a fungal growth in the cork tree bark or the cork closure it self. Non desirable aroma compounds such as TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) are formed. Like many wine defects, these aroma compounds have a very low detection threshold, few parts per trillion, meaning that it does not take much to ruin a wine bottle! The result is a moldy, musty, wet basement-type of odor.

  • For more information, refer to the wikipedia page which is quite comprehensive.

  • Aroma Standard: The best standard is to keep a corked tainted wine and preserve it from oxygen. Manipulating the compound, TCA, is not a good idea if you are not a flavor chemist operating in a well ventilated lab. It’s not dangerous, just very stinky and with a low threshold meaning that if you put one drop of this compound in an olympic size swimming pool filled with water, you would smell it.
    So it's not a not a good idea to play with it.

Image credit: WikiCommons


  • Aroma: Mushroom
  • Category: Earthy 
  • Type: Earthy
  • Aroma definition: Aroma evoking the smell of a fresh button mushroom. 3-cis octenol is a compound that is quite typical of mushroom aroma. 
  • Wine style: I have perceived mushroom aromas in Pinot noir mostly. When it becomes intense, it can be confounded with the cork taint. But definitely, it becomes an off-flavour.
  • Origin: this type of aroma likely develops during the alcoholic fermentation and may be related to the yeast strains. 
  • Aroma Standard: You may use canned mushrooms for this standard.
    If the brine has an intense mushroom aroma, you may pour about 5 ml in a 30ml glass of wine. Adjust as needed. If the brine aroma is too weak, let macerate some mushrooms in the wine for few hours and in a hermetic container. Filter and use immediately as an aroma reference. 

Image credit: Anonymous


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