Wine drinking is an art, isn't it? Here is a suggestion how you can simplify your way through wine tastings enormously.
The internet is full of wine tasting notes, like the following ones:
“Cassis, violets, blackberry. Wet stone, espresso, notes of sweet oak. On entry, ripe mountain fruit, licorice, complex minerals. Youthful and lively, with firm acid and elegant chalky tannins. Captivating finish.”
(Ridge Winery about Montebello)
“Tasted twice Deep garnet-purple colour. The nose begins a little mute with a suggestion of freshly crushed blackberries and blackcurrants, forest floor, cinnamon and a touch of loam. The palate is wonderfully concentrated with layers of macerated blackberry, cloves, vanilla and dark chocolate. A medium+ level of acidity and medium to firm fine and ripe tannins give excellent structure to the richness of flavours. Very long finish. Drink now to 2030. Tasted April 2009.”
(Wine Advocate about Opus One)
Wonderful, just wonderful. I’m actually drinking a Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel while I’m writing this. It is not quite the Montebello Cab, however, I have been trying for a while now to remember how wet stone tastes. Unfortunately, I have no fresh wet stone in my fridge to compare. Likewise, what would forest floor taste like? I have to admit, that my experience with forest floor, be it dry or wet, is quite limited. Enormously limited.
Over the years, I have read a lot of these tasting notes, and I have all the respect of the world for the folks who possess built-in tasting instruments to help them detect all this fine detail. Somehow, it never has worked for me this way.
So I have developed clear principles when it comes to wine tasting and drinking, and one day the world will recognize that my idea could simplify tasting notes a lot. It is very simple:
There are two classes of wine in the world, the ones that I like, and the ones that I don’t like that much. It’s a bit of a Facebook approach, you “like” or you don’t. No other choice.
Sounds too easy? Seriously, this is how I’ve approached wine over the past 20 years. Forget about the label, forget about the vintage, forget about points from whomever. There is only one thing that counts: Do you like the wine or not?
If not, what does it help you to read about 120 points of some publication? Nothing. What does a big label help you? Nothing.
I remember a wine tasting with a top-5 grand cru from Bordeaux from 1982. Everybody tasted the wine, everybody knew the label. After some silence and expert head moving around the table I couldn’t help but say “I don’t like it, sorry. It doesn’t taste like the grand wine that it is supposed to be.”
It didn’t take more than a split second for everybody to agree. Nobody wanted to be first because of the big name. But in fact, the bottle was no good, and that was it.
Why do I tell you all this? Because I suggest you detect your own taste. Try wines, if possible, ignore the label in a blind tasting. Trust your palate. And don’t say “this is such a great wine” if you don’t feel like it.
The Lytton Springs from Ridge is my favorite Zinfandel. Made from more than 110-year-old vines, this wine has an impressive nose and palate. Here are the winemaker’s notes:
“Ripe nose of raspberry, plum, pepper and chapparel. Blackberry, mineral and vanilla notes dominate the palate. Well integrated tannins typical of this classic vineyard add to the long finish. EB (6/10)“
Try it, it's well worth it. And find out yourself, whether you like it or not.