Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I’m one of those individuals who likes to take notes when I drink wine. I believe that putting down my impressions of a wine in written form helps focus my powers of vision, smell and taste; helps me appreciate the wine. A tasting note is what I like to think of as one part of a complete wine experience and, importantly, it is an aid to remembering the taste and smell of the wine. I’m also a wine drinker who likes to compare wines. Yes, I’ll even taste multiple wines in one sitting and, God forbid, I’ll even rank them in order of how my palate perceives their quality. And just to add insult to injury I’ll give the individual wines a score. After all wine, to me, is a beverage and even though some may try to argue the point, not all wines are the same. In fact very few wines are the same. And even though a wine may provide great pleasure (even intense disgust) resulting in an emotional response I don’t view wine with the same emotional attachment that a film, or a painting, or a book may evoke. Yes, I’ve admired the bottle, read the label, become one physically with the cork (or screwcap), appraised its color and legs, and maybe even viewed enticing pictures of video about it in cyberspace.

But I’ve also smelled and tasted it. I’ve taken in too much information for a simple like or dislike response, or even an emotional association with some pleasurable event in my life. During the viewing, smelling and tasting I’ve been accommodating an entirely new combination of attributes recorded by my senses, and fitted them into a new space in the wine library in my brain. And to help me recall that experience I’ve documented the smells and tastes. I’ve put my senses through a series of tough hurdles, trying to discern if its plum, blueberry, blackberry or mulberry that is the predominant aroma. And is there a little bit of vanilla here, perhaps a hint of violets, and maybe just a few molecules of Brett! I’m not being subjective. I’m forcing my senses to be as objective as they can be. An objectivity gained by over 30 years of absorbing as much written knowledge about wine that I can, collecting wine, comparative wine tasting, visiting wine regions and talking with winemakers, even trying to make sense of Robert Parker’s tasting notes. I’ve invested too much into this mad pursuit to wax lyrical about a wine, comparing it to a summer’s breeze or a woman’s breast. I want to score it! I want to give it some credibility with its peers. Place a number on it, give it a medal. Not frame it on a wall, or confuse its qualities by comparing it to a subjective, emotional fragment of existence that only I may have experienced.

And so I score, and score, and score. Wine deserves to be scored, some wines call out for a really BIG score. Others whimper, and accept a lesser accolade; both they and I know they deserve it. I trust my senses of sight, smell and taste so I know I’m correct in my judgment. OK, I will go back through the wines again, from least to best, just to confirm the agreement of my palate with the ranking I’ve recorded.

But how do I score wine? Those who read my Tasting Notes blog know I score out of 20 and then convert that to 100 by simple multiplication. Out of respect for Dan Murphy, a wine taster has to give a score out of 100. Yes, I know that my inactivity with the TN blog means that fewer and fewer of you visit there, but who knows I may want to share all my hard work scoring with you again, so be patient.

Do I need to use just numbers? No, I could score with stars, or medals, or any other method as long as it can provide an objective ranking, none of this subjective imagery. Of course all the forms of ranking should be comparable. How is that done? Its very simple really, you steal someone else’s graphic of wine scoring. I’m going to steal Geoff Kelly’s. Why? Because it actually makes sense. I look at it and think yes, that fits neatly with being objective about wine. That is a thoughtful, clear assessment of how wine ranking methods compare.