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Taking Note of Your Wine
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed Sept 25, 2000. For more information go to

You can't tell the players without a scorecard, the baseball wisdom goes; and the same is true, to some extent, of the intelligent enjoyment of fine wine.

For wine, the scorecard is a tasting form or sheet on which we jot down our brief, casual impressions of each wine we taste. If you're serious about wine and want to learn more about it, I highly recommend getting into the simple habit of recording your tasting notes.

No special skill is involved, and there's no required format. As you taste your wine, all you need to do is write down the basic label information from the bottle; then, using your own words, take note of its appearance, aroma, flavor, aftertaste (or "finish") and, finally, your overall impressions of the wine. If you wish, you can also assign the wine a grade or score, although this is strictly optional. Your note doesn't have to be fancy and it needn't even be grammatical. You don't have to show it to anyone. But I find that the simple act of structuring the wine-tasting experience - and writing it down - helps cement the details of the wine in my palate's memory, making it easier for me to remember each wine and compare it against other wines I've tasted before and since.

You can use index cards or steno pads for free-form notes, or use a standardized form if you like. The University of California at Davis and the American Wine Society, a national organization of amateur vine growers and wine makers, have standardized forms using separate 20-point scales. We have three free tasting-form samples on The Wine Lovers' Page that you're welcome to print out and use:

* A simple tasting form - a straightforward approach that makes the process easy.
* A detailed tasting form - a graphical form, courtesy of the New Jersey Men of Taste wine- appreciation group, featuring a precise 20-point scoring system that's easy to use but sophisticated enough for experienced wine lovers.
* An essay-style scoresheet - If you'd rather approach your wine contemplatively than mathematically and describe it in words of your choosing, this essay-style form might be right for you.

In my conclusion to that "essay-style" sheet, I wrote a brief commentary about tasting notes that I think fits in to this discussion:

"FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Why do we submit a substance as ultimately trivial as fermented grape juice to such an extended analysis? For many who find the appreciation of fine wine an enjoyable hobby, it's a way of enhancing that enjoyment by turning it into an intellectual exercise that helps us compare one wine against another and develop an appreciation for its subtleties.

"But it's a little more than this: By training ourselves to stop, take a breath, and pay attention to the subtle elements that distinguish one wine from any other, I think we learn an important lesson about life -- that it's worth taking the time to slow down and appreciate ANYTHING that pleases us, from a glass of wine to a great work of music, literature or art, or a sunset or a scenic view. It's a simple way to learn to appreciate the little things in life that may in some small way enhance our enjoyment of every day."


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