Simplify wine tasting notes without the salad bingo!

Typical Fruit Salad of Wine Tasting

Typical Fruit Salad of Wine Tasting

I am constantly baffled by wine tasting notes I come across written either by professional wine tasters or by well meaning bloggers who write a post about a wine they have just drunk! Both types of writer seem to want to indulge themselves in a kind of Fruit Salad Bingo where you get to win the more fruits you can mention. Then there’s the cigar box, forest floor, sweaty saddle, brigade who seem to be trying to gain personal kudos by their idiosyncratic obscure descriptions. I’ve never smelled a sweaty saddle in my life so my neurosystem has nothing in its databank to help it, sorry!
I was reminded of my irritation at this type of writing by an article in Wine Searcher recently and here’s a few quotes from it, but you can read the whole article by clicking on the linked title before getting to my own (idiosyncratic?) advice at the end.

Wine writing’s lack of judgement -Oliver Styles, from Wine Searcher News

Wine tasting criticism

Wine tasting criticism

“If you read most wine notes these days, what you’ll get is a handful of aromas and flavours – a textural note if you’re lucky – maybe a wildcard like a food matching or a drinking window. And a number. Mainly though, adjectives, nouns and verbs simply get piled on fruit aromas like metaphors in erotic novels. Writers find new and interesting ways to use language and enable wines: they “reveal” aromas to their taster; a Châteauneuf “pumps out lush flavors”; there are “wafts” and “gobs” of fruits you only find in organic stores; a Brunello enjoyed a “coterie of … tannins”; aromas “race along”; and so on.”
“Aromas and wines evidently do all sorts of things, from pumping to revealing, but was the coterie pleasurable to hang out with? Did you want to stuff socks in the gobs of fruits? One note, which I mentioned above, ended with the phrase “…long finish offers a nice tug of graphite.” At least here we knew the tug was pleasurable.”
“So what do I want? Well, firstly, I want wine writers to start according more space to their views on everyday wines, not just expensive greats. Maybe we can invert the paradigm? You might really love the Ramonet Montrachet, but if only 20 cases are coming into the US, what public good is it if your tasting note is any longer than one line with a score in the upper 90s at the end? Give more space (even if you’re ambivalent) to more commercial outputs. And, while I personally like technical winemaking details, maybe drop the sentences on new oak percentage or elevage and tell us whether or not these aspects worked, what they brought to the party.”
Wine tasting notes

Wine tasting notes

A Personal view of Wine Tasting Notes

The whole article is quite funny and entertaining, but the views are quite strong and has probably annoyed the whole professional wine tasting fraternity! What I personally want in a wine review is quite simple, in fact these points below are what I use in my own notes when I store a view/judgement on a wine I have bought, tasted, cellared. I’m not writing the notes for anyone else though I occasionally use them to describe a producer wine tasting on our wine travels. They are to refer back to when I open another bottle, do I still like it, has the tannin or acidity changed, do other bottles need more ageing time etc. So here goes, what I want from a wine writer:
  1. Do I like it, yes/no?
  2. Colour description, especially depth and looking for those brown tinges in red wines denoting age/maturity
  3. Smell in terms of fruitiness, floweriness, spicyness, earthiness, that’s all, generalised.
  4. Taste in terms of:
    1. Sweet-Dry and points in between
    2. Acidity (sourness, but not in a bad way)
    3. Tannin (like tea)
    4. Fruit generally, not specific, so red berries or citrus is fine, don’t need the Fruit Salad Bingo
    5. Finish, how long does the flavour stay with you after that first swallow (my wife Dr C uses the expression Thick-Thin!)
    6. Ageing potential, will this wine keep and improve over time or does it need to be drunk within 12 months for example.

So there you have it, a personal view wine tasting notes and writing. Maybe not to everyones liking but surely a simplification is needed as well as a rest from the bombardment from bloggers who think that writing up their OWN notes on a single bottle of wine they had last night watching the footie is somehow adding to the cosmos knowledge base!! I will shortly write up a simple method of recording your own tasting notes in this way using a great app for a smartphone too.



Categories: Reviews, Tips, Wine

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6 replies

  1. 😅 quite harsh, but accurate. I asked myself many of the same questions. Why should I even write reviews? Who is actually going to go out and find that wine, if they can remember it, after reading a review. And, isn’t the fun of it in discovering it for yourself? It is essentially meaningless unless you have the wine in front of you and want to compare responses. However, it could also be said that certain families of aromas can be found in wines, and the interactions between these aromas, acidity, tannins, residual sugars, alcohol, etc. create a unique personality in a wine and it’s hard to resist the temptation of finding poetic ways to do it justice.

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