Practicality In Wine Tasting Notes

Giovanni Angelini, August 26, 2021

In most parts of the world, interest in wine is continuing to grow year after year, and so is the production. Driven by the more aggressive promotion strategies and advanced distribution networks, consumption is now at an all-time high and demand remains strong. Wine has become a much-loved part of our lives.

Wine is so complex and each wine is distinctive with its own character and personality. Conversations around wine normally revolve around the producer, the region, the terroir, grape variety, tannin, sulfite, vintage, alcohol content, ratings, food pairing, etc…

The wine industry has become very large but at the same time, it has remained fragmented. There is inconsistency from country to country (even region to region, appellation to appellation) in how wines are named and classified. Wine labels on the back of the bottles are written purely to satisfy the local government requirements, but at times those labels are confusing to consumers. 

There is an overwhelming amount of choice and products from many parts of the world, but not an internationally agreed-upon standard. This may be a good thing for some while not so good for others, again inconsistency.

Navigating through the glut of options when choosing a wine, is normally easier to gravitate toward recognized brand names and source/country, but most times, the more interesting, more complex, and ultimately better drinking experience is the wine from small producers.

We all know that the nose is more sophisticated than the mouth and in most cases, the taste is almost impossible to describe, it is so private, so hidden. So are the aromas, the flavors, and on top of it, we all have different likes/dislikes, palates, and preferences. And here when practical tasting notes from the experts are useful.

But why do most tasting notes from the so-called wine critics, and/or writers are so mysterious and overly descriptive to the point of becoming confusing? Why do those critics use overblown/creative language to describe a wine that they may prefer? Tasting notes should be limited to what is important to the consumer, not on own likes-dislikes and preferences. The objective of those tasting notes should be to help the end-user, not to show off nor to intimidate.

Often we encounter tasting notes with a long list of flavors, something like “ripe dark peaches, iodine, oyster shell, fresh mushrooms, molasses, dried strawberry, dry earth, wet coconut shell, charcoal” and so on. In some cases, there have been comments like “intellectual satisfying wine…. or the use of ridiculous expressions like masculine, feminine, and sexy wine”. Really don’t want to comment on this as it is a totally inappropriate way to describe a wine.

Can those wine “specialists” make it simpler for the consumers to understand and help them with a choice of what wine to purchase in a shop or order in a restaurant? Tasting notes need to be understood and not seen as a prescription. A long list of flavors is confusing and it does not achieve much. It would be of great help to both the connoisseurs and the beginners if there would be a much more systematic approach to describe and report those wine tasting notes.

As a suggestion, here is a list of practical topics that may be of interest to the consumers and for the wine critics/writers to consider/add in their tasting notes (of course subjectivity comes into play);

  • Name of wine, producer, region/country, grape variety/single or blended, vintage.  
  • Body; if it is a light body, or medium body, or a full-body wine, and color intensity.
  • Tannin, alcohol content, sulfites, and maturity/aging process in barrels before release.
  • An indication of; balance, bouquet/aroma/flavors, acidity, fresh or flat wine, and the aftertaste.
  • Ripeness/when to drink, uncork/breathing time before consumption, if to decant it or not.
  • Ideal serving temperature, type of glasses and suggested food pairing.

Other useful information can include the sugar contents, the type, and size of barrels where the wine was aged, and a reminder to the consumers that the quality of wine can change based on transportation and most importantly how it is stored/cellar condition. 

Overall comments on the rating/scoring of the wine in question are normally very helpful as with hundreds of different types of grapes, wines are so very diverse.

Have to recognize that wine critics have their own fancies-prejudices-style and at times producers are aware of those preferences. In the final analysis, the basic rule of businesses prevails, producers have to sell and critics have to subsist. 

Remember that there is no right or wrong way to appreciate wine, it is about personal taste, budget, and the occasion rather than some elaborated tasting notes. A point of interest is the appreciation and consumption of wine among young people and of the increasing demand for natural-organic-biodynamic products.

The selection of wine has never been more diverse. A question often asked is if the wines from the “Old World” are better than those from the “New World”….., the most appropriate answer to this question is “Traditional Winemaking Process vs Modern Techniques with Borrowed Tradition” (centuries of knowledge of the terroirs vs dozen of years in some countries).

Which one do you like most? and which one do you trust more? It is all based on personal preference. Do enjoy whatever you choose, but….., in moderation……