In my late teens, early twenties, I worked summers as an all-purpose roadman in York Region, Ontario. I controlled traffic for road repair crews, installed new road signs, mowed ditch grass, collected trash (and a small fortune in beer bottles), buried dead animals (many, many dead animals), and just generally got a deep arm and neck tan. One of the hardest jobs as roadman was working the tar pot -- crack sealing duty. Stand in 30C afternoon heat beside a boiling cauldron of black road tar sometime and see how long you last. Think what you will about road construction crews and their five-person hole-digging; the tar pot crew earns its pay.
Yet, despite the backbreaking hours carrying the tar pots, and the probable lung damage (working the tar is like smoking two packs a day), I can't pass a roof repair crew or a roadside tar pot without stopping to take a deep and satisfying inhale. There is nothing like the smell of hot tar. Reminds me of my lost youth.
All of that is to say that, clearly, taste and aroma appreciation is a personal thing. James Joyce writes about "feety" cheese. Mmmmmm, feet.
I was thinking of all that after writing my Riesling appreciation yesterday. Kim says 'mop 'n glo', I say 'evergreen.' Then this morning, looking through an old Frugal Oenophile newsletter, I find Richard Best's thoughts on Riesling. A "queen with many moods" he calls this magnificent grape, and then describes its wine like so:
A versatile and good value wine, Riesling can age for up to 30 years, although it is good from 2 years on. Light to medium bodied, it is rarely oaked. The flavour is crisp and clean with fruity, flowery aromas showing apple, honey, lime, peaches, and sometimes slate. Perhaps Riesling's most cherished quality is its propensity to smell like petrol, coal oil or paraffin, especially in well-aged examples.
Coal oil? How does one's nose turn an abrasive smell like coal oil into something as delightful and refreshing as pine?
Why do I stop and sniff boiling tar?