Most fine wine lovers spend much time reading tasting notes and now more and more start writing and sharing their own wines experiences. The increased number of apps, blogs and wine communities in recent years have boosted this phenomenon. Here are a few tips to start writing your own tasting notes.
1 – Don’t overdo it!
Keep it simple and brief is the best way to convey its own impression about a wine and to remember it. No need to get a description with a list of 12 different red berries or describe the all topography to express the minerality in your glass. The more you’ll write about wine, the less you’ll need to use numerous words to express your sense and the less time you’ll spend trying to get the aroma you think you are smelling!
2 – Understand the balance of a wine
A wine is a permanent tension between opposite forces which pull in one direction or the other. We often describe the balance of a wine through 3 main perceptions of our taste buds:
- The sugar: this element describes the mouthfeel and includes both the sugar and alcohol levels in a wine. The wine varies from light, medium to bold and when considered too high, alcoholic.
- Acidity: a capital component of the wine. When too high, we call it “green”. When at a respectable level we say “fresh” or “sharp” and when lacking tension, the wine becomes “flat”. Attention though, when assessing acidity we don’t speak about chemical acidity (pH) but only the perceived acidity. The nuance is key as that relates to the all balance of the wine. Indeed, the more sugar a wine contains, the less detectable is the acidity. Try it yourself with pure lemon juice, try to sip it without wincing. Now add sugar to it and you’ll enjoy drinking it. Thus an acidic wine will need to have a minimum sugar to be balanced. Conversely, a wine with a high sugar content will require higher acidity not to be considered spineless.
- Tannins(red wine only): this is what dries your palate, the grip or the « tannin grain » of a wine. They are absolutely key to assess the quality of a red wine. Both quantity and structure of the tannins have to be described. Tight and silky tannins are opposed to rough, dry and angular tannins. Attention though, tanins are perceived differently when tasting or during a meal, so keep in mind to take that into account. (point 4).
These 3 axis are the most commonly used to comment red wines but you can add many other attributes as the level and style of wood used, the aromatic complexity, bitterness…
3 – The taste and… the touch!
When writing tasting notes, we are often obsessed with aromas and balance but often undervalue the sense of touch and feel. In a red wine you’ll perceive the tannins but it is important to evaluate the texture and mouthfeel of all types of wines. The fullness of a white wine will tell you a lot about the wine and is a key part of your wine assessment.
4 – Don’t forget about the context
It is not always easy to taste a wine in perfect tasting conditions unless you are a wine professional. Thus one needs to adapt to the tasting environment and take that this point into account in its note. Indeed a wine will taste differently depending on your shape, mood, on the condition of the bottle itself and on so many other parameters, room temperature, surrounding smells… for example, a wine tasted slightly too warm will be perceived as more alcoholic. A wine that didn’t have enough time to breathe will give the impression of being more tannic etc. So don’t hesitate in your notes to compare the wine with similar wines that you have tasted before and remind the conditions in which you have tasted it.
5 – Don’t forget your taste!
When working hard on pulling a wine apart, describing every single step of your tasting, you sometimes start losing the soul of the wine itself, focusing too much on the description and finally lose the ability to express your personal appreciation. Sometimes we go through several tasting notes and it appears impossible to understand the writer’s taste and it is a shame. It shouldn’t be taboo to give its assessment on a wine.
6 –and further!
Once you have the basics, make it your way: poets, sharpen your pencils!
This brief article provides only general indications. We all have our own style when writing tasting notes and the important is to make them yours, progress and regularly come back to your notes to remind you of the wines you had. Have a good tasting!