Periodically people send me their tasting notes—sometimes in cases where we agree about a wine, but more often when we don’t.
What I sometimes find fascinating is how differently people can perceive quality, as well as positives or negatives, and the words they choose to describe their impressions. Here’s an example of a note I came across from someone who really loved a wine, an expensive 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet—but you wouldn’t know it by reading the descriptors.
“A real surprise. Nose of white pepper, green herbs (spinach) and bright red fruit. Palate has a real allspice character to it. Great depth and cleanliness for a ‘03. Great midpalate of earth and bark, a wine not afraid of a bit of harshness or astringency, but still vibrant and lively fruit. A long-lasting finish. Impressive. 96 points.”
For me, a Cabernet with bright red fruit and allspice sounds appealing, and earthy character might also be pleasing. But I’m not fond of Cabernets with white pepper, spinach and bark flavors that tasted harsh and astringent—regardless of the length of the finish.
Yet clearly this person loved this wine and wrote a passionate note.
Any of us who write notes and rate wines know how important it is to equate the score (irrespective of the scoring system you use) with descriptors. But in this instance, certain descriptors would have made me guess the person didn’t like the wine, when in fact he raved about it, the final proof being the 96-point rating.
While I am sometimes charged with only liking big, rich, opulent wines, with gobs of toasty oak, the truth is I like wines of diversity, whether it's a delicate Riesling (with 7percent to 8 percent alcohol) or a plush Lewis Syrah. When writing tasting notes for the wines I typically like the most, you'll see descriptors such as "purity of flavor" and "complexity," but also "balance," "grace," "finesse" and "elegance." In different settings, many wines can provide those attributes. It's wines that reveal something new in every sip that captivate my attention.
How about you?
Steve Barber — Clayton, CA. — June 18, 2007 6:47pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento,CA — June 18, 2007 7:08pm ET
Roy Piper — Napa, CA. — June 18, 2007 8:14pm ET
Kirk Wilken — June 18, 2007 10:27pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — June 18, 2007 11:47pm ET
Ashley Potter — LA, — June 19, 2007 4:18am ET
John Wilen — Texas — June 19, 2007 8:59am ET
John Wilen — Texas — June 19, 2007 9:45am ET
John Wilen — Texas — June 19, 2007 9:59am ET
Dana Nigro — New York, NY — June 19, 2007 11:20am ET
Willim Tisherman — Katonah, NY — June 19, 2007 12:22pm ET
Troy Peterson — Burbank, CA — June 19, 2007 12:59pm ET
Gary M Lewis — Beverly Hills Ca — June 19, 2007 2:25pm ET
Hugh L Sutherland Jr-m — miramar beach, fl — June 19, 2007 2:42pm ET
Gregory Roman — June 20, 2007 9:47pm ET
Lyle Kumasaka — Arlington, VA — June 21, 2007 12:58am ET
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