When you taste wines, seriously or for fun, do yourself a favor.
Take notes. Written ones.
This was an important lesson I learned early on in my career.
Before I wrote about wine, when I simply drank it, one way my friends and I kept track of what we liked was to place the empty bottles on the hearth above the fireplace. Until it got too crowded….
That lineup of dead soldiers changed with time, with better bottles bumping off lesser ones.
One image I have in mind is that by the time I moved from that house in Cardiff, in San Diego, the names of Heitz Cellar and Louis M. Martini were prominently displayed.
When I began writing about wine, I quickly learned from the likes of Michael Broadbent that the best way to capture your thoughts and memories was to write a note.
You remember that drill from school. Writing down your thoughts is another way to help your brain visualize the words.
You don’t have to be poetic or prolific in your choice of language. Ratings are a good idea, too, whether it’s a numerical scale, A through F letter grade, or any other method you find useful.
I use a couple of scoring systems.
Ninety-nine percent of the time I taste wines, I’m sitting in front of a computer, in my office, so I simply type the notes in a database, with a description, a rating on our 100-point scale and a drink window.
When I’m at a trade tasting, sampling barrel samples where it’s not blind and there’s less room to write detailed notes, I use a system of three ratings: + for wines I really like, usually accompanied by a few descriptors; 0 for wines that are good; and – for wines that don’t impress me.
When I’m out for lunch or dinner and want to make a note, I either use my notepad or a scrap of paper.
What’s surprising is that when I taste with winemakers, I rarely see them take notes.
And when I’m dining, I can count on one hand the people I’ve seen writing notes.
Which makes me wonder: Do you take notes?
How do you capture your impressions--on a piece of paper, notepad or handheld device? Photographic memory?
I know lots of people who still soak off the labels of their superstar wines and place them in a scrapbook.
That helps preseve the memory.