Monday, July 16, 2012

Tasting Note Sources

Here are the sources of the tasting notes I reproduced on Friday:

1) Richard Jennings describing 1996 Chapoutier St Joseph Blanc Les Granits. All of Jennings' notes are in a style that is not my personal favorite, but this one with its meniscus measurement strikes me as particularly strange. By the way, I say "personal favorite" for a reason. Richard Jennings is by far the favorite author of the CellarTracker community, where as of today 1,407 members have tagged him as a favorite author. Second favorite is Eric LeVine, the founder of the site, with 1,142. Third is Keith Levenberg with 603. CellarTracker is the most widely used cellar management and tasting note board on the internet (all statistics made up, yet true). Clearly Jennings' notes speak to many people.

2) Alder Yarrow of Vinography describing 2010 Fred Loimer "Seeberg Erste Lage Reserve" Riesling, Langenlois, Kamptal. The "electric cool aid explosion" and the "jet boat ride" got me. Nothing wrong with that though, as it comes across as genuine to me, and you could argue, quite descriptive. 

3) This is me getting all exuberant and emotive after drinking Selosse Substance for the first time. An over-the-top tasting note for an over-the-top wine. I liked the note at the time but I think it's clear now that it has not aged well. Reading it out of context it can come off as downright strange.

4) Frederic Koeppel of Bigger Than Your Head describing 2009 Michel Lafarge Volnay Vendanges Sélectionées. I quite like this note, as for me it captures the feeling of drinking good red Burgundy. What I found odd is how the soulful character of the note juxtaposes with the scientific-sounding (and in my opinion, more misleading than helpful) recommendation on a drinking window: "now through 2018 to '20."

5) Robert Parker describing 2006 Ausone ($1,495!), via Sherry-Lehmann's website. I am not a subscriber to the Wine Advocate so I had to get this note from a retailer's reprint. Okay, this is a Parker note and it's bombastic, as I'm sure the wine is. But I was struck by this part: "...but what makes it so special is its precision, focus, and almost ethereal lightness despite substantial flavor intensity and depth. It is a ballerina with density and power." Sounds like something that Asimov or any of the "Post-Parker generation" of influential wine writers would say about a red wine they appreciate. Is this Parker imitating that new type of compliment for red wine, or has he always said such things about the big reds that he loves?
Anyway, thanks for indulging me in this exercise. As is evidenced in the comments to the previous post, tasting notes for some reason provoke a lot of outrage in people. I think that there's no point in hating the note, it's a part of selling wine and that's that. Everyone who writes about wine is responsible for some strange notes. But tasting notes should be useful other than as shelf talkers with point scores attached. I think the trick is to not expect too much. After all, how can a few sentences describe a full sensory experience? Keep it simple - find a voice(s) that you relate to most of the time, and trust yourself as much as you trust that voice.


leviopenswine said...


Meniscus meta, even.

Anonymous said...

"...almost ethereal lightness despite substantial flavor intensity and depth....."

It's exactly that kind of schizophrenic descriptive writing that made me realize I could let my subscription lapse.

Anonymous said...

The "meniscus" gag is very odd, and I say that as a guy who knows from meniscus.

I think you are unfair to Eric A., he writes better than that. "Dense ballerinas"? I should say not.