Taking note of your 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:
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 email@example.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.
A good-value red from Chile
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.
Local Wine Events.com
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.
Robert Parker's Wine Advisor & Cellar Manager
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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.
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Vol. 2, No. 36, Sept. 25, 2000