How to become a taster of note
Learning about wine is like learning a new language, with the added difficulty that you are drinking while you're doing it.
Here are some tips on how to get the most out of the tasting experience. Keeping a record of the wines helps improve your knowledge. Tasting in flights with a group of fellow wine lovers means you can taste a wider range at one time and save money in the process.
Nowadays, with the advent of social media, many people keep a record of what they drink by taking pictures and posting them on Facebook. A more old-fashioned way is to make a written note. A wine note can be very basic, recording the name of the producer, variety, the year, region and alcohol level. It can also become a record of the colour, nose (aromas), palate and quality. Here is an example:
Highfield, pinot noir, Marlborough, 2008, 14.5 per cent
Nose: ripe strawberry, cherry, floral notes, with some spice
Palate: medium body, crisp acidity, soft tannin. Medium length of finish
Conclusion: ready to drink Approachable and will keep for up to five years
Critics will often score wines. Robert Parker scores out of 100, while Jancis Robinson uses a 20-point system. A score is a taster's quick reference point to the quality of the wine. It can be subjective, and your taste may differ from that of the critic. The best wine is the one you like the most.
Tasting a number of wines together is a good way to understand the differences and similarities between different varieties and regions, and it is also a good way to identify the sort of wines that you will enjoy tasting.
One idea is to do a tasting of chardonnays from different regions such as Burgundy, California, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Alternatively, you can do a tasting of oaked versus unoaked chardonnay.
Vertical and horizontal tasting
Vertical tasting refers to a comparison of the same wine from different years. It is a useful way to learn about vintage variation and the impact that weather patterns have on the style and quality of wine.
A horizontal tasting refers to tasting a number of different wines from the same vintage.
Blind tasting is an objective way to identify a wine and assess its quality without looking at the label. People tend to have preconceived notions about the quality of the wine based on the brand, pricing and region. In a survey conducted by researchers at Caltech and Stanford University, participants were given a series of wines to taste at what they were told were different price points. The most expensive wine was voted as the best. In fact, it was identical to the cheaper wine. Blind tasting forces the taster to rely wholly on their senses and judgment. It is a fun way to learn more, but don't take it too seriously. You don't need to be a great wine taster to be able to identify the wines in a blind tasting.