GDP on Wine

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

A new system for reviewing wines

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 3, 2012.

So, with yesterday's email I've unveiled a new system for reviewing wine. You can check it out in practice here:!slide=2

Essentially I've hidden the fancy, florid wine review on the wine's detail page and replaced them in articles with a short, to the point review and break down of what is roughly objectively discoverable for each wine.

What does everyone think?

Any good?


Reply by JonDerry, Oct 3, 2012.

I like the format and thought behind it, can definitely relate to wanting to be more concise or just separate the stats from the summary or tasting note.

Reply by EMark, Oct 3, 2012.

Outstanding.  This new summary description is an excellent supplement you your reviews.

Reply by Mike Madaio, Oct 3, 2012.

I like the idea quite a bit.

Just to provide a contrarian viewpoint, I kinda wonder if there are too many facets in the "summary".  Of course, you need Acid, Body (Weight), Tannin. But do all the others need to be there? I know what high acid, or drying tannins means. I love savory notes, but I'm not really sure what "savory: medium" means, and I think if there were fewer things to rate in this quick summary, that'd make it easier to glance over.

Reply by napagirl68, Oct 3, 2012.


I like the format.  I have to agree with Mike Madaio tho... Fruity, savory and some other descriptors can be very misleading.  And spicy is really misleading, IMO.  I mean, I love cool weather syrahs with a white pepper note (a spice? or not a spice?) but I hate cabs made with that big green pepper note, which I call VEGETAL, but almost everyone else calls that Peppery, which leads me back to what is included in the term SPICE.  When you say spice to me, I think of things such as asian spice, cardamon, anise, etc.  I just asked my husband what SPICY means to him, I asked him to equate it to food/smell/ plant/ earth/ whatever.  He said a spicy wine to him is a bit hot, like salami, peppery.  Savory presents similar problems, IMO.  I have no idea what that means.  I like bacon on a finish of some wines... perhaps that is savory?  some of the big chilean cabs that reek of green pepper to me, are savory to my husband.  Different strokes, different folks.

IMHO, I prefer an honestly written review with detailed findings, ie, tart cherry, earthy, eucalyptus vs. general categorization of wines.  Perhaps a keywords section at the bottom would be helpful... maybe add this on to what your have.  Beginners might like the generals, but if I am looking for orange pekoe in a pinot, I wanna find it!!!

Other than that, I love the format. 

Reply by JonDerry, Oct 4, 2012.

Good points indeed...perhaps a few bullet points can be agreed upon and users may add their own as well. I tend to make a point to comment on the overall balance (and if it's tilting one way) along with the finish.

Reply by Terence Pang, Oct 4, 2012.

I think it is always good to have a systematic approach to writing a tasting note, and a consistent methodology should be encouraged for Snooth notes. But I feel the subclassifications of sweet spicy and savoury is taking it a step too far and unnecessary if the description is sufficient. As for sweetness, I find it only useful to class wines as dry, off-dry and sweet.

I have found the WSET systematic approach to tasting very useful for describing a wine. The use of a relative low, medium or high scale for acidity, tannin levels and richness of the flavours is also useful for others create a perception of the wine.

Reply by Nerdmom920, Oct 4, 2012.

I like this system.  It reminds me of the very basics remind me of beer classifications, which are useful when determining what to drink.  The sub-classifications are fine with me too.  I think everyone can get an idea of what something will taste like without it having to taste exactly the same.  One person says a chardonnay tastes buttery, and I taste mild cheese.  It comes from the same place.  One person says earthy, another says vegetal, I task a kind of muskiness, we have a built-in translator.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 5, 2012.

It's good for what it is.  If people want more detail, the link is there.  I think the terms being used, like savory, are pretty much no-nonsense everyday.  Savory = not sweet/fruity.  So, think, umami, meaty, bacon-y, olives, like that.  Peppery to me says white or black, the spice.  The green pepper thing is usually called just that, green pepper.  Sometimes herbaceous can be a result of the same compounds, but not usually identical in profile--and herbaceous, like "minerally,' invites the question, "Which herb?"  (Cilantro is an herb and has exactly those pyrazines, but sage is an herb and completely different.  Interesting list of "herb and spice" descriptors and what causes them. If you want to get technical on pyrazines in wine, look here.

Reply by zufrieden, Oct 6, 2012.

See my comments on under 15 dollar Merlot.  I personally like detail, but for others something approaching (but not quite reaching) a statement like: "It went down good!" often suffices.  After all, whether we appreciate the fact or no, we are  in the education game.

Reply by redpoz, Oct 8, 2012.

ok, it seems a good idea for those who have little or no knowledge about the wine.

but it also takes away all the immagination when discovering a wine....

a good introduction, provided you'll have the chance to taste them

Reply by Mary Margaret McCamic, Oct 9, 2012.

I like the idea. Very streamlined!

The "sweetness" category could be confusing, though, to echo Terence's point. Having the category ranked as it is currently (low, moderate, etc) seems to imply that all the wines on this list are actually sweet on some level (as in, they all have detectable residual sugar). It seems like with this set of wines, you might actually be trying to address the fruity factor, or how ripe the fruit tastes as opposed to actual residual sugar. Please correct me if I am wrong on this. 

You might try sticking with the terms like dry, off-dry, or medium-sweet to clarify the "sweetness level." That way, readers don't get confused and think that a super fruit-driven Merlot (that's still technically a dry wine) actually has noticeable sweetness in the same way that a Moscato d'Asti has noticeable sweetness. Make sense? Just a thought.

Reply by Wai Xin Chan, Oct 10, 2012.

I like how GdP quantify the attributes for simplicity, but I feel this suits wine recommendation on retail shelves more than for tasting experience notes.

I'm sure most of us feel that wine tasting is more art than science, more sensual than actual. Therefore qualitative words with certain emotion or significance makes more impact and inline with what we feel during the process.

Secondly, when we say high tannins what is the threshold level between medium to high? Between a Bordeaux to a Barolo or lesser?

Reply by Terence Pang, Oct 10, 2012.

It is indeed quite a skill to accurately describe wines in a manner that would be agreeable to the majority. It is a separate craft and an art to make that description in smooth flowing prose and frankly, most of which is read by wine professionals and 'wine geeks' (used liberally).

However, I think for the average consumer whose habit is to casually walk into a wine shop, accuracy would trump simplicity. So, while everyone has different thresholds for acidity, alcohol, tannins and fruit weight, I believe it would still be useful if common categorised terms were used. The use of emotive terms impart some creative difference to the tasting note, but if we're debating variance in taste perception, then let's not even start on emotion.

I also think it would be reasonable to expect that customers would appreciate that levels described are approximate and not absolute. So in terms of tannin levels, pinot noir would be a red wine with a medium level of tannins while brunello di montalcino would have a high tannin level. Of course, the next step up would involve the knowledge of the reviewer. For example, in the case of Brunello di Montalcino, are the tannins mainly from the Sangiovese for the winery that used a tranditional winemaking apprach by maturation in old oak botti,  or were brand new Slavonian oak barrels used? This extra information that is not typically provided in tasting notes would be educational for the consumer I reckon. Thoughts?


Reply by Chris Carpita, Oct 10, 2012.

Everyone is making great points here, I love the feedback this has generated.  I think you always want to communicate the experience- wine is drinkable art after all.  The other side of it is that if I'm bringing a bottle to Mom and I know she hates bitter wines, I can use GDP's new system (we at Snooth like naming things so let's call it TasteBud) to filter out the high-tannin wines quickly if I'm building a list of wines to look out for at the store.  

Here's how I see it: wine is this beautiful thing, like a landscape in a national park.  There's no substitute for the experience and you want those who have gone before you to romanticize it when they tell you what it's like.  Otherwise you really wouldn't be that interested in going!  I think of the TasteBud system as kind of like a park map: simplified, and "objective" (close as you can get with wine without  a mass spectrometer).  It doesn't improve on nature, but it helps you keep your bearings while navigating the thicket.

Reply by JonDerry, Oct 10, 2012.

What struck me about this divergence in opinion was that a more streamlined system like GdP has outlined here works great for average - to above average wines, every day wine that most of us normally come in to contact with. But there tends to be more of a romanticism with outstanding wines where streamlining, or being brief in a way can be a little offensive.

No matter the wine, I find myself interested in most of the facts that Greg outlines, but can sympathize with the romanticism and "magic" lost along with it. No doubt, it's not for everyone but maybe it fits or can fit with modifications for what Snooth is trying to do.

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