Amateur Tasting Notes

What can I learn from my oldest tasting notes?


Ok so the title may be a bit misleading. These are in fact the oldest tasting notes I still have in my possession but are not my earliest. While looking for something I came upon my first tasting pad and thought I might as well share a few of these early notes for fun. But there’s also another reason, to help illustrate a path. My evolution as a taster. 

I often receive notes from folks telling me how they just can’t pick out things like distinct fruit flavors in a wine. Well, as it so happens back in 1985 neither could I, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t a good taster nor did it mean that my notes weren’t helpful or informative. They were simple, and because of that simplicity maybe even more useful than some of the more complex notes that I write today. Notes with more detail, though using language that is less consumer friendly.
Consider these first two:
Nose - slightly hard, not open, bricky, vinous but particularly rooty, of good quality, under-developed but may not live. Taste - good tannins, good acidity, pruny or dried fruit, medium body, peppery aftertaste and long warm finish 14.5/20
 Nose- rich, full, hot, peppery, well developed, very good. Taste - med-full to full bodied, good balance, tannic, refreshing, vinous after taste, good finish 16/20
Not great but helpful, if revealing a fundamental inability to really grasp what the wine is telling me. That inability is something almost all of us share. We shouldn’t be discouraged by it. In fact it should motivate us to work hard to hone our skills and become better tasters.  Here are two of the wines that helped me to do just that.
Nose - alcoholic, immature, clean, very little fruit, odor of rotting meat, smells like at least 80% cabernet Taste - dry, full body, good soft tannins and acid, very little fruit, beginning to mature, well balanced, will age very well, extremely smooth aftertaste and finish, try again in 1991, 14.5/20 when mature could be 18/20
Nose - heady, thin, earthy, seemingly immature, clean,little fruit taste light body, heavy tannins and good acidity, good aftertaste, moderate finish slight taste of cherry and prune 13/20
That Poujeaux was one of my epiphany wines. The first very young wine that gave me a clear picture of where it was going in my mind. I still remember that moment. I can't believe how expensive it was, but I know that when I bought a case elsewhere it was 1/3rd less. Still have 3 bottles left from that case and yet oddly enough I can’t find a more recent note in any of the digital databases I’ve used during the intervening years. It would have been fun and instructive to watch both the evolution of this wine as well as the evolution of my ability to appreciate it and describe it. Sadly, many of the bottles were consumed back in the days of paper notes, and while I have them somewhere, packed away in a box, the likelihood that they’ll ever be transcribed is low at best.
So much has changed since I first took these notes but the biggest change, the one that most fundamentally affects us all is the digital revolution. Having your tasting notes stored, indexed and available not only allows you to follow the evolution of any wine in your cellars, but offers you insight into how other folks are perceiving that wine, and lets you keep track of your own growth as a wine taster! Drinking wine and tasting wine has not changed, only the way that information is stored, accessed, and shared. 
So to all of you out there who have difficulty putting your vinous experiences into words, fear not. It is the way we all have started. Back in the day we would suffer in silence, our primitive words kept secret on pages of paper. Today they are shared, and we suffer in public for it. We suffer through comparison with those around us, but it’s good to recall that were our paper pages shared freely, we would all be revealed as the novices that we were. 
I had written amateur instead of novice, but amateurs we remain. Amateurs who pursue wine for the love it. Don’t let your inability to find raspberries of chocolate, or creosote in a wine squelch that love. Keep on tasting, recording your notes, and reading up on your favorite wines and you’ll eventually get to be where you want to be. All you need to do is take that first step. 
A final thought. Don’t forget that none of this should impact that love of wine. This is all a bit of fun and nonsense, the true beauty of wine is simply enjoying it for what it offers you. Sharing it among friends and family. Recording what it reveals to you is also fun, and helpful, but really doesn’t make the wine better!

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: ChefJune
    359212 33

    I loved the prices on those wines. Ah, those were the days!

    When I'm leading a tasting group, I always advise the novices there are no wrong answers because everyone tastes differently. I urge them to write their first impressions and not worry about what someone else has written, or what they are "supposed" to smell and/or taste. Because if the journey isn't fun, it's all too easy to lose them.

    Feb 27, 2014 at 4:27 PM

  • Snooth User: DM94523
    77883 116

    Hear, hear! I share the same ideas at my wine tastings. Wine is a personal experience, so the only notes and comments that are relevant are things that matter to the writer. Great insight into the evolution of a wine taster, GDP!

    Feb 27, 2014 at 8:49 PM

  • I love this. A great article for us amateurs!

    Feb 28, 2014 at 1:37 AM

  • Some writers from wrote diploma paper on the theme "Enological Nominative Units in the English Language Worldview" They said that There are, in fact, dozens of terms that can be and have been used to describe and evaluate wines. The incredibly wide range of flavors and aromas in wine is probably what attracts most neophytes to this beverage, but because the identification and naming of aromas in a wine is mainly a matter of experience and memory, the use of metaphors, epithets, similes, personification are particularly important in the description of organoleptic qualities of wine.

    Oct 18, 2017 at 8:17 AM

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