in doing so, show you just how random this method is. It’s like Psychology; there is no wrong answer. Before I dive headfirst into this shallow pool, let me first say that in its simplest form, drinking wine is a pleasure ritual. Tasting wine is not.
The ‘tasting’ of wine, the sciencey way of drinking wine, is a buzz kill. It’s like Dr. Drew and cocaine, they just don’t go together and should never be in the same room. When I relax in my kitchen, and I decide it’s time for a tasting, the basic elements of pleasure are not present. It’s not drudgery mind you, but this is work. I’m not opening a bottle with a friend or my wife. I’m not preparing a spectacular meal that’s perfectly paired. Not even close. I select the bottle I’m going to take to task, and reminiscent of a 9th grader in his first year of Biology, take my scalpel, in this case, my corkscrew, and open that little bastard up and look at its innards to see make makes it so damn good.
Of course, once I’ve finished with my tasting notes, I put down my pen and close my leather-bound notebook, and if I’ve found the bottle has met my standards, then I’ll pour myself a nice full glass, sit back and drink that sucker for all its worth. Something you may not know about me, I love a good wine, and more importantly, I love the result of wine in my bloodstream. I prefer a ‘wine drunk’ to a hard alcohol or beer drunk. I’ve tested this many, many times throughout the course of my life and wine it is.
Side note: as I write this article, I’m drinking a beer; viva Modelo!
As ‘taste’ and tasting results go, results will vary. So, if you embark on your tasting, just know they may differ from mine or other critics, and that is, ok. What we (the collective we) are looking for, is the basic characteristics of the varietal we’re tasting. For example, does this cabernet sauvignon have the proper elements of its heritage? Well, that would depend on the - wait, here comes a fancy wine term coming, “the terroir” (pronounced ‘tare-wah’. Let’s take a quick look at Wikipedia and see what they have to say.
Terroir is the set of all environmental factors that affect a crop's epigenetic qualities, unique environment contexts, and farming practices when the crop is grown in a specific habitat. Collectively, these contextual characteristics are said to have a character; terroir also refers to this character.
If you’re doing a tasting with friends or colleagues, something I highly encourage you to do is share and compare notes. Comparing helps you find the nuances in what you’re drinking and also helps to make you more aware of certain distinctions in particular grape varietals. Sommeliers, wine writers (like me) and avid wine lovers (aka: oenophiles), will often experience a rush of memories at the simple mention of wine they’ve tasted, experienced, reviewed and loved. You’ll find the more wines you taste, for the sake of actually tasting, the more likely it is that you too will start to experience that kind of fond recollection. If were to say to me, “Pinot Noir” my first thought would be, black cherry, plum, slight anise and rich berry fruits. Simply hearing the words, pinot noir, brings to mind hundreds of pinots I’ve enjoyed in my life and for the most respectable ones, that’s the powerful recall they possess.
The following will give you an idea of what I’ve been explaining. It’s three different wine reviews, from three equally respected wine sources. The wine in reference is a 2010 Kosta Browne, Koplen Vineyard, Pinot Noir.
92 - The Wine Advocate
... classic Russian River Pinot. Plums, black cherries, mint, licorice and sweet spices... I very much like the length and overall sense of polish. In 2010 the Koplen is striking in its beautiful balance and radiant, supple personality...
92 - Wine Spectator
Complex cherry, plum and raspberry flavors are ripe, moderately rich and layered, turning delicate and elegant, where the plummy flavors reverberate.
92 - Vinous / International Wine Cellar
Heady aromas of strawberry, cherry-cola, potpourri and spicy oak. Silky, sweet and seamless, with superb depth... red berry and floral pastille flavors. Extremely suave... excellent energy and clarity on the persistent, floral finish.
One thing to note about these three reviews is that we didn't know when each source tasted the wine. It could have been as soon as the wine was released, or possibly while it was still in the barrel. Another thing to consider is, was it a blind tasting or did the reviewer know the wine that was in the glass? Something that comes with knowing what you’re drinking is that it could have a psychological effect and as a result, influence the outcome. Time will always change the course of wine, but the basic elements will always remain. Each review, even though they are slightly different in their fruit, spice, and floral interpretation, nailed the features of this fine pinot noir.
The next time you’re in a wine store, take a look at the note card displayed next to any given wine. You will see a Reader's Digest description, with hints of what to look for and what you’re likely to experience. Again, this is subjective, but it will give you a place to start, and you’ll have a better understanding of what the basic elements in that bottle will be. Depending on the quality of the wine, those notes, those hints, those nuances, may be hiding like a missing dryer sock, so really pay attention and take your notes.
Over time, the sensory analysis will become more familiar to you. If you prefer, you can simply just drink the wine, enjoy the juice and let those of us obsessed, do the investigating for you. Unfortunately for me, almost every aspect of my life requires critical research. That is most likely why I spent six years in psychotherapy, but that’s another story for another time. I’ll share that with you soon, on my personal blog. Stay tuned.
My tasting review for this piece will be a Kosta Browne. Let’s see how close I come to the other reviewer's considerations, regarding the basic elements of this delicious Pinot Noir. Now I don’t have that particular wine from the review, but I have one that is close enough and for this little experiment, it will do just fine.
Winery: Kosta Browne
Region: Sonoma County
Varietal: Pinot Noir
Appearance (Color): Glistening ruby red
Aroma (Complexity): Berry fruit, with hints of earth
Body (Texture and Weight): Medium, well rounded
Taste (Balance of Flavor): A mixed fruit pie, with high heat
Finish (What lingers): A hint of vanilla and plum
Food Paring: Summer BBQ and chocolate pie
Serving Temperature: 64°
Final Rating: 94
The Y9 Point Rating System
Wine Score | How Good the Wine Is
95-100 Classic: an extraordinary wine
90-94 Outstanding: wine with superior character & style
Wine Serving Temperatures:
64° - Full Bodied (Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec)
62° - Tawny Port
60° - Pinot Noir, Rhone, Burgundy
55° - Beaujolais Nouveau
54° Full Bodied White Wines (Chardonnay)
52° Medium Bodied White Wines (Sauvignon Blanc)
50° Rosé, Light Bodied White Wines (White Zinfandel)
48° Champagne and Sparkling, Ice Wine
John Turi has had an impulsive career as a writer, wine critic, and artist. He has two published books of short fiction and poetry. He is a former child actor with the anxiety to prove it. He began college with a major in Mortuary Science, later switched to Creative Writing, and, finally finished at a free love hippie art college in Southern California with a degree in Graphic Design and Marketing. During his college years he worked in the wine industry and acquired a delicate palate for varietals. For the last 20 years he has become a private rare book and wine collector. He desires California Pinot Noir from Sonoma County in Northern California. As a way to pay for his wine and book collection he works as a Senior Marketing Manager for one of the largest adult sex toy companies in the world. For the good of his sanity, he is a columnist at ConnotationPress.com, where he writes a monthly wine column featuring only the best bottles. He currently resides in Southern California with his beautiful wife Shawn Marie, a motivational speaker for female entrepreneurs. Enjoy John's latest book 'A Drinker With A Writing Problem - A Wine Lover's Retrospective' available at Amazon in softcover, ebook and audio book formats.