Distinctly smoky, very varietal in character. Intense in flavour, but very soft in its finish, a little like landing on pillows.
Tasting notes are stupid to begin with, but when they include asinine comments such as “very soft in the finish … like landing on pillows” they become mind-blowingly inane. These days, tasting notes are everywhere: in magazines, on the shelf at the local wine store, on the internet, on my blog…
But do they really tell us anything?
Why do people like me write tasting notes? I can only speak for me, but I think it is because I am incredibly self-centered and I think that I have a better understanding of wine than most people and that others will benefit from my incredible insight.
How’s that for obnoxious? The truth is, I can’t really think of another less obnoxious reason, but one thing is abundantly clear: they are really starting to get out of hand. Why do some people insist on writing things that make them sound like complete pompous morons? Those of us who really like wine are already perceived as elitist jackasses, why do we insist on making it worse?
…there a smoky [sic] (~ steaming bacon grease) bouquet on this wine; also obvious sweet cherry with background micro-strawberries popping on and off the scene; there’s also the toasted marshmallow carmalization [sic] effect I get on most pinots, except those I tend not to like much; a touch of pepper and oak. Medium bodied and slight on the attack, this coats the palate nicely if you let it.
Where to start? Micro-strawberries? Are those different than ‘Macro-strawberries’? I drink more Pinot than most people, and I am pretty sure that I have never picked up on any ‘toasted marshmallow caramelization’. Isn’t it possible that we do not all smell the same things? After eating asparagus, I can smell it in my pee. My wife can’t. Might at least some of that carry over to wine? Maybe she can smell bramble berry (whatever the hell that is) and I can’t. Does that make the wine any more or less appealing (I guess it depends what bramble berry smells like)? And while we’re still on this note, what does it mean to ‘coat the palate nicely if you let it’?
I know I get caught up in this absurdity at times and write ridiculous ‘observations’ because it is become the ‘industry standard’ of how to write a tasting note. But should it be? Many people have criticized the scoring of wine on the 100 point scale, but no one criticizes this kind of thing:
Deeply scented black cherries fuse with toasted marshmallow, sweet custard pie and cinnamon sticks. Well seasoned oak support the floral scent of musky black roses and a savoury thorny understorey like briar growing through straw mulch after recent rain
What the hell does this mean: “A savoury thorny understorey like briar growing through straw mulch after recent rain”? What is a “musky black rose”? Black roses don’t even exist (unless you consider dyeing the roses black to count–kind of like fuchsia hair, I guess).
C’mon man, you can’t be serious.
What if I smell dog crap and cat pee but I still really like the wine? What if it smells like ambrosia but tastes like horse manure? I know there are a ton of smell descriptors for wine. I even have the Nez du Vin (a kit containing a lot of the different aromas [not to be confused with ‘odors’] that one can find in wine). I get that. Wine is complex and it can take on all kinds of aromas. But if it smells like, I don’t know, ‘lemon zest’ or ‘wild raspberry jam’ is that going to make you run out and buy it (or avoid it like the plague)? I would not think so. You basically want to know whether the reviewer liked it (or thought it was ‘good’) or didn’t. After all, isn’t that all we really care about? No one wants to run out and buy a wine that is really crappy (unless you’re a geek like me or you are having it as an example in some sort of twisted ‘Wines that taste like ass’ blind tasting). Sure, you might be having a specific meal (e.g., I like to make a roast pork with a cherry sauce from time to time) and you might want to find a wine that melds seamlessly into the dish. But does any body really do that? Who are we kidding?
Recently 1winedude came out against a piece that he heard on NPR giving it to wine geeks. At first, I was a little offended by the piece as well, but then I started thinking about it. The reason people like to make fun of wine geeks is because we say crap like this:
Kirsch and some barnyard on the nose. Dark fruits and plenty of lead pencil minerality on the palate, with a broad swath of licorice in the background. Over time the flavor transmogrified into dark chocolate covered slightly sour cherries but always with a strong mineral component on the midpalate. An interesting and enjoyable wine.
Come on. You probably annoy the hell out of your friends.
No wonder people get all charged up when they think wine geeks are full of crap–because we are! This was driven home when my sister visited a few months ago. She is by no means a wine aficionado. Not even close. But she likes to drink wine. When we started tasting a few of the wines I got as samples, I would swirl, sniff, aerate and then try to say something profound. She did not give a honey badger about any of that and looked at me like I was a huge dork (which is the way she usually looks at me, but that is besides the point). To her it was simple: did she like the wine or not? After all isn’t THAT what matters?
The nose is expressive and intense, full of ginger and exotic fruit. Broad and rich but finely focused, and with incredible detail on the palate, this is a complete wine. And after about 90 minutes it was truly amazing – the things that stuck out previously, the intensity, the ginger, the richness – those things had blended so seamlessly with each other by this time that none of them on its own was evident. The wine had become a real thing of beauty, the kind of wine that can ruin you. Evocative of old libraries filled with leather-bound books and half-drunk glasses of sherry, and of attractive young couples riding motorcycles, rushing past you in a fleeting glimpse of what you wish you could be.
The ‘type of wine that can ruin you’?