The mistake I make when tasting wine


Going back a good few years I used to play snooker with a mate in a smoke filled cafe in downtown Brussels. We would rock up after work and play a few frames with several nice Belgian beers, of which our favourite at the time was Duvel, a masterpiece of brewing that is incredibly dry and an impressive 8.5% proof. Anyway, there was a waiter there who was also an excellent player and one night, frustrated by our poor play, we asked him if he had any words of advice to improve our snooker. He shook his head and said: “don’t drink Duvel”

We didn’t take his advice of course – without the soothing liquid I could never have borne the outrageous fortune and underhand tactics of my competitor, but years later I can see that that anonymous guru was onto something. There are several clues. First, there are recent incidents when at the end of a long night I just don’t have sufficient recollection to write a report worth the name. Second, when I look back at some tasting notes I have written I sometimes wonder “what was I on when I wrote this?” (the answer, generally, is about 8-10 units). In fact, on the many occasions I was fortunate to have had great nights dining with great friends and lovely wines (this in particular, but you can see evidence of another here), I can’t honestly remember the details of the wines involved with any precision.

On the other hand, when asked to name my favourite wines of 2015 it was really noticeable to me that the wines that stood out most in the memory (aside from the stellar sherries on here) were generally wines I tasted in either a formal setting in which I even used a spittoon (or, appropriately enough, around the snooker table).

I suppose it is a paradox of wine blogging – the more you enjoy your wine the more your ability to appreciate it, or at least to remember what you thought of it, diminishes.

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5 thoughts on “The mistake I make when tasting wine

  1. True – there is also the issue of focus. At a tasting, you are generally less distracted by chat, music etc.

    I think the key for dinners is short snappy notes as soon as possible after the event (at the event is even better). No need for verbose descriptions here – just a quick impression of quality, character and balance and on to the fun of enjoying the wine.

    PS – really want to hear about the Rinaldi.

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    1. Yep if you have the discipline for note taking at the dinner table that would be the way. The Rinaldi was the “Cannubi San Lorenzo-Ravera” 2007, brought to a wine tasting by none other than Luis Gutierrez himself. Lovely light fruit at the start, nice acidity and growing fruit intensity – really great shape it had to it.

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      1. Yep – it’s a tightrope. You never want to be the guy scribbling in the corner.

        Re the Barolo – the problem is Rinaldi’s wines have gone from being widely available (so I’m told) to rarer than hen’s teeth. I have some 09 Brunate-Le Coste and 10 Tre Tine stashed away but in such small quantities that I’m not going to have the benefit of checking in on them for many many years.

        I did a fair bit of drinking of his other bottles this year – Freisa, Langhe Nebbiolo, Barbera, Ruche. Lots of fun to be had with them too.

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