Tasting Notes

Wine Folly is my wine tasting bible. It’s the most valuable book I’ve ever purchased. Its detailed descriptions educate the reader not only about the characteristics of many varietals, but how to properly recall tasting experiences by taking detailed notes. Note-taking has been proven to have a powerful impact on memory because we are active in the moment. Learning how to take wine notes-even if I’m scribbling them in a rush at work or marking them on a Mickey Mouse notepad in crayon at home-has changed the way I taste wine.

Have you ever read someone else’s wine tasting notes? I have. According to Wine Folly notes should include the date, a description of the color and appearance of the wine, the nose, and the tasting notes. Also, it should include a brief description of your experiences and surroundings at the time. Early in my journey, I felt insecure about my own experiences. Why? Allow me to introduce some lovely people. I’ll give them fake names to conceal their identities. Let’s call them Shmevin and Shwendy.

Shmevin writes: I ascended the mountain peak whilst savoring the orange-pink glow of the sunrise. Cutting into the snow, preparing for an early morning slalom, the brisk air pierced my flesh with its prickly chill. After the racing through the fresh powder all day I decided to relax aside a welcoming fire with a beautiful Bordeaux blend and a meticulously plated duck confit. The Chateau Petrus 2010 had legs like a Swiss model and a sparkling deep red glow against its bold ebony hue. I was impressed by the thick tannic structure and rich, gustative texture. It’s lush with dark cherries at the peak of ripeness, cedar, mulberry, licorice, and leather bound books.

That…will never be my wine experience. Nor will this:

Shwendy writes: I spent the afternoon happily meditating in a field of fresh blooms in the high country of Germany while backpacking to support feminism. I was reluctant to stop at a local cafe as I’d been contemplating transitioning to full vegan. I plopped down, stripping off my Camelback, and ordered an organically grown, fully sustainable Riesling while munching on Kartoffelpuffer. The Maximin Grunhauser Abtsberg Riesling Spatlese 2017 had a fragrant, herbal nose not unlike the field where I attended goat yoga the day before. It had steady structure and gentle minerality. I plan to upcycle the bottle for a homemade beeswax lantern.

Ok. Shmevin and Shwendy are a bit more active and sophisticated than myself, and these examples are a bit of a stretch from the real, lovely people they represent. And yet, in the daily zoo that is my life, I was reluctant to jot down my notes as I feared they would not live up to the experiences of others.

Then, staring at my awesome book, I decided: to hell with that.

Sitting in torn underwear on dog drool stained sofa eating snack cheese and Hershey’s while re-watching GOT may not be the wine experience of a sophisticated somm publishing pieces in a wine magazine, but it’s MY experience. I earned that $10 Cabernet that’s pretty meh, damn it.

The point is that taking notes using the proper format has been beneficial to my study. Common examples can seem pretentious or downright flamboyant (see Shmevin and Shwendy) or otherwise don’t fit with your lifestyle. Make it fit you.

I love looking back at my rosé tastings from two years ago. I tasted with one of my favorite wine reps and with the sommelier from the winery. I then took a few samples home for my notes because I couldn’t decide right then and there which one I wanted for our wine list. Most of them fit the price point I was looking for, and I enjoyed three of them very much. And as I drank more, the notes became more and more..curse-wordy. But I REMEMBER them: the subtle acidity of one versus the gentle minerality of another against the light cranberry zip of the third. I may have been in my underwear watching reruns, but that’s my experience. And I own it.