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30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
Taking note of your wine

You can't tell the players without a scorecard, the baseball wisdom goes; and the same is true, to some extent, of the intelligent enjoyment of fine wine.

For wine, the scorecard is a tasting form or sheet on which we jot down our brief, casual impressions of each wine we taste. If you're serious about wine and want to learn more about it, I highly recommend getting into the simple habit of recording your tasting notes.

No special skill is involved, and there's no required format. As you taste your wine, all you need to do is write down the basic label information from the bottle; then, using your own words, take note of its appearance, aroma, flavor, aftertaste (or "finish") and, finally, your overall impressions of the wine. If you wish, you can also assign the wine a grade or score, although this is strictly optional. Your note doesn't have to be fancy and it needn't even be grammatical. You don't have to show it to anyone. But I find that the simple act of structuring the wine-tasting experience - and writing it down - helps cement the details of the wine in my palate's memory, making it easier for me to remember each wine and compare it against other wines I've tasted before and since.

You can use index cards or steno pads for free-form notes, or use a standardized form if you like. The University of California at Davis and the American Wine Society, a national organization of amateur vine growers and wine makers, have standardized forms using separate 20-point scales. We have three free tasting-form samples on The Wine Lovers' Page that you're welcome to print out and use:

  • A simple tasting form, www.wineloverspage.com/tastfrm1.htm, a straightforward approach that makes the process easy.
  • A detailed tasting form, www.wineloverspage.com/tastfrm2.htm, a graphical form, courtesy of the New Jersey Men of Taste wine-appreciation group, featuring a precise 20-point scoring system that's easy to use but sophisticated enough for experienced wine lovers.
  • An essay-style scoresheet, www.wineloverspage.com/tastfrm3.htm. If you'd rather approach your wine contemplatively than mathematically and describe it in words of your choosing, this essay-style form might be right for you.

In my conclusion to that "essay-style" sheet, I wrote a brief commentary about tasting notes that I think fits in to this discussion:

"FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Why do we submit a substance as ultimately trivial as fermented grape juice to such an extended analysis? For many who find the appreciation of fine wine an enjoyable hobby, it's a way of enhancing that enjoyment by turning it into an intellectual exercise that helps us compare one wine against another and develop an appreciation for its subtleties.

"But it's a little more than this: By training ourselves to stop, take a breath, and pay attention to the subtle elements that distinguish one wine from any other, I think we learn an important lesson about life -- that it's worth taking the time to slow down and appreciate anything that pleases us, from a glass of wine to a great work of music, literature or art, or a sunset or a scenic view. It's a simple way to learn to appreciate the little things in life that may in some small way enhance our enjoyment of every day."

Finally, as noted in last week's edition, our current Wine Lovers' Voting Booth addresses a related topic. If you haven't done so yet, I invite you to drop by http://www.wineloverspage.com/votebooth, and answer the question, "Do you take notes on the wines you taste?" This question will remain online until Friday.

If you have thoughts or comments about taking wine notes - or if you have a personal approach or tasting form that you would like to share - please get in touch by E-mail at wine@wineloverspage.com. I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note, but I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.

We hope you'll invite your wine-loving friends to register for their own free weekly copy at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor.

30 Second Tasting Notes:
A good-value red from Chile
Vino de Eyzaguirre Vino de Eyzaguirre 1997 San Francisco de Mostaxal Cachapoal Valley (Chile) Reserva Especial Cabernet Sauvignon ($7.99)
The burlap bag in which this bargain favorite is wrapped makes it stand out on the retail shelf. Dark garnet, with ripe, slightly herbaceous blackcurrant aromas, classic Cabernet. Fresh and full, black fruit and tart acidity. Could pass for an everyday Bordeaux - and at this price, that's a compliment. U.S. importer: Cabernet Corp., Novato, Calif. (Sept. 24, 2000)

FOOD MATCH: A natural match with burgers made from freshly chopped chuck and sirloin.

Favorite Wine Links:
Local Wine Events.com
Eric V. Orange's new Local Wine Events.com site is a place where organizations holding wine-tasting events and dinners around the world can post free public announcements about their events. Easy to navigate, it begins by offering a choice of cities around the world. Click the location of interest to you and you'll find local events listings, plus links to submit additional events.

At this point, it's new and still growing, and while it's rich with listings for larger cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, many of the listings from international cities and smaller U.S. cities contain no events. It's a good concept, though, and participation will make it work. So if you're in the wine business and have an event to announce, drop by www.localwineevents.com. And if you're a wine consumer, you might tell your favorite wine shops and restaurants about this site.

30 Second Advertising Partner:
Robert Parker's Wine Advisor & Cellar Manager
Robert Parker's Wine Advisor & Cellar Manager, http://www.winetech.com, is the first and only software developed in conjunction with Robert Parker and derived from his newsletter, The Wine Advocate. It combines both a database of wine information and a cellar manager to keep track of your collection.

Robert Parker's Wine Advisor

30 Second Administrivia
This free weekly E-mail publication is distributed to subscribers every Monday. Previous editions are archived on The Wine Lovers' Page. See www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor/thelist.shtml.

You are on the subscription list because you registered during a visit to Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page. If for any reason you no longer want to receive this publication, simply send a short E-mail to 'wine@wineloverspage.com' asking to be unsubscribed (and, if you wish, offering us any suggestions you may have as to how we could have served you better), and we'll remove your name from the list. We do not use this list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail to anyone.

If your E-mail program is having trouble handling the images in this edition, feel free to request that we switch you from the HTML to TEXT edition ... or vice versa. Please contact us in the same way if your E-mail address changes. And of course we welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. Send us E-mail at wine@wineloverspage.com.

All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

More time for wine?
You don't need to wait for Mondays to read about wine! Drop in any time on Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page, where we add new tasting notes several times each week and frequently expand our selection of wine-appreciation articles, tips and tutorials.

If you'd like to talk about wine online with fellow wine enthusiasts around the world, we'd be delighted to have you join the interactive, international forums in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group.

Vol. 2, No. 36, Sept. 25, 2000

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