Wine Talk

Snooth User: Kevin Day

Tasting notes: a dead practice or just in need of tweaking?

Posted by Kevin Day, Jan 25, 2017.

I was wondering if I could get some feedback on an article I wrote about recently entitled Tasting Notes Are Broken. Or just discussion on the topic:

The article has been nominated for a Millésima Blog Award in the Wine Reporter category. If you are on Facebook, please vote for it: The winner (hopefully me!) gets a free trip to Bordeaux! ✈️🇫🇷

My theory is that tasting notes discourage people from getting into wine. We either look silly doing it, or the practice is done with such certainty that it makes it seem exclusive. Do you agree? Would love thoughts (and votes) from the community. Thanks!

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Reply by amour, Jan 25, 2017.

I am personally still trying to write tasting notes!

After all these years!!

While TASTING NOTES do not turn me off......I actually like to read them.......they can seem to get in the way as I tend to be opinionated as regards wine.......

AT THIS POINT I WILL each his own, or her own!!!

I can express how a wine is received by me and my palate but the way I will express it in words is not the CONVENTIONAL never bother to write them unless I MUST!

A nice tasting wine for me is described as...A DARLING!   HEAVENLY!!!


Reply by Kevin Day, Jan 25, 2017.

Thanks Amour. No spamming here! 😂 I genuinely want people's thoughts, and if they are inclined, votes. I'm new to social media contests (never been nominated for anything before), but I'm realizing the only way to stand a chance in them is to get the word out. Sorry if it's immodest. It's just that ... well, Bordeaux is on the line! 🙂

I've been trying to write effective notes for a few years as well, if for no one but myself. But so many (esp from WA, WE, retailers and wineries) are patently ridiculous. I'd love to see the practice given more care. Darling and heavenly are a good start. Throw some emotion in there. That's what wine triggers, right? Good to meet you

Reply by outthere, Jan 26, 2017.

Tasting notes aren't broken, people are. There are only so many descriptors that work for wine but in this narcissistic age of the internet it seems that people are going overboard to get others to notice them. To validate them and what they have to say while not taking into account that they really aren't saying anything of value.

I've never eaten a Turkish Apricot, don't even know if they grow them there, but I'll guarantee you that if they do they taste just like ones grown in Chile, California, France...

Perhaps tasting note writers get writers block. Need something new. Problem is it's wine. There is only so much you can get out of fermented grape juice. Live with it and write a note that is beneficial to whomever reads it, even if they all sound a bit similar.

My 2¢

P.S. I still think you are here only for the votes but am open to you proving me wrong.

Reply by dvogler, Jan 26, 2017.

Welcome Kevin,

"My theory is that tasting notes discourage people from getting into wine".

I think people who know little about wine rely on tasting notes when they are selecting a bottle (after price of course).  I understand what you're talking about as far as it appearing exclusive, but wine is available to everyone at every price and all they have to do is go to the checkout with it.  If someone is so insecure that they choose to abandon wine because the "art" of tasting notes frightens them, they have bigger issues.

I didn't sign into Facebook to read the article and am simply going by what you've written.

Reply by dmcker, Jan 26, 2017.

Actually Turkish apricots, at least the dried ones shipped overseas, are not as good as those from CA. Different fresh off the tree in country, of course.

One pet peeve I have is that tasting notes don't usually refer to the context--when tasted, under what circumstances, over how long a period of time, with what food, etc., etc. Wine is not some isolated Platonic Ideal. It's a changing, evolving beverage that interacts with and reacts to its environment--as do the people drinking it. So I need  a context to know why a wine showed however some taster says it did.

We've talked here in the past about ways to train a tasting palate, and our memories. Dealing with poor writing habits is a whole 'nuther can of worms. Then there's all them plagiarists and people who just pile on to others' descriptions...

Reply by Kevin Day, Jan 26, 2017.

Good discussion. Thanks everyone.

@dmcker "One pet peeve I have is that tasting notes don't usually refer to the context--when tasted, under what circumstances, over how long a period of time, with what food, etc., etc." How very true. Underscores why any review that came from a mass tasting — where a blitzkreig on the senses surely leads to sensory exhaustion — isn't a typical context, and therefore, is sorta useless. Right?

I do like dvogler's point that if someone is intimidated by tasting notes, that's their problem. My problem, is I have very good friends who discount my interest in wine because I might mention it reminds me of something. That's the part that's annoying.

And yes, I am trying to win a contest. The winner goes to Bordeaux ... Who wouldn't try every tactic under the sun to win that? BUT, I also enjoy the discussion as it will help me be a better wine writer. I've had the urge to amp up a tasting note I publish — as @outthere notes — to get noticed. But with experience, you do realize there are only so many flavors/aromas that matter. The real magic that happens is personal: when it reminds you of a moment from your past. I had a wine recently that reminded me of the room where my father did his fly-tying (he is a fly-fisherman). It smelled like the lemon oil and beeswax he used to varnish the table where he worked. Now, who else would have that same experience? Probably no one. So is it worth writing about? 

By the way, I'm no where close to winning the contest at this point. Worth a shot.

Thank you all for chiming in.

Reply by rckr1951, Jan 26, 2017.

...."I have very good friends who discount my interest in wine because I might mention it reminds me of something.".  Been/are there. Welcome to the club. Here on the forum you'll find general reviews, but several of us - including myself - actually review wines in another website or in the wine section of this site.

So, because you were honest about what you were trying achieve and why I read the article and gave you a vote.  You comments about WS as they use the system started by Robert Parker with one exception (If my info is correct.), Parker started his at 60 points when first doing these.

The guys are right - the environs and other stimuli will enhance the experience.  Our wine group tastes anywhere from 10-14 bottles a month - some crap some very, very good.  But when we are tasting it's only the wine, maybe some bread - but wine only.  That way it's a pure event - then, get the party started.....


Reply by amour, Jan 26, 2017.


By the way....never will get to BORDEAUX....eventually......

I am delighted that the points raised in the thread are creating robust discussion plus a prolific flow of commentary!!!


Reply by rckr1951, Jan 26, 2017.

Let me add one more thing - your question "based on what? is well founded.  indeed, if the bottom is 50 or 60 and then you have all those levels how's a newbie to know?  I try to tell my friends that new to wine - and where I live there are tons of them - don't think it out, do this:

1 point - can't stand it

2.points - drinkable

3. points - like it

4 points - really good

5 points - DAMN!

Who cares about a 100 point system? 

Reply by MJET, Jan 26, 2017.

RCKR-I like your rating scale!!!

Reply by amour, Jan 27, 2017.

RCKR1951-that is so COOL!!!!


Reply by GregT, Jan 27, 2017.

Let's break it down.

1. Most people are bad writers.

2. People who write about wine are a subset of most people.

3. It is unlikely that only the best writers are interested in wine.

4. Therefore, people who write about wine must include many bad writers.

Now, what is the point of tasting notes? Some possibilities:

1. To say "look at what I am drinking"

2. To actually convey some sense of what the experience was.

For . . .

1. The two readers of the blog.

2. The writer himself or herself.

3. The vast number of subscribers to the publication.

The look-at-me would cover number 1 but number 2 would be like shouting into a mirror and if you actually were lucky enough to be writing for number 3, one would hope that you'd have a bit more class.

But there are a lot more writers of tasting notes then there are readers of them. Everybody wants to feel like Robert Parker passing judgment. Of course, they want more than one or two readers but good luck with that, especially if they have a blog "demystifying" wine or telling-it-like-it-is-no-hold-barred-straight-up-no-bullshit.

So in the end, I think most TNs are written by the writer for the writer, and putting the best spin on it, to remind the writer, or to convey some sense of what the wine was like so that two years hence, there'd be a useful reminder.

But in that case, who cares whether the notes are pompous or not? I write notes for myself so I remember whether I liked a wine or not. I couldn't care less whether anyone else felt the same way or understood what I was talking about. 

OTOH, the people who write for WS or large-circulation magazines have some interest in conveying a bit of what they experienced. If you trust their palates, just look at their scores and see whether or not they liked the wine. There isn't a person on this earth who bought a wine after reading that it had graphite or torrefaction somewhere. But there are thousands who bought a wine because it got 95 points from someone.

I suppose if one wants to read tasting notes, that's OK, but it's a bit like reading obituaries. There are actually people who do that. I have no idea why. Reading about the demise of someone you never knew existed seems like a fine way to waste a perfect day - the epitome of futility.

Same with tasting notes.

In the end, they aren't broken at all and to imagine that they prevent people from becoming interested in wine is a bit presumptuous. It assumes that novice folks would be intimidated by the fact that somebody they don't know and have never heard of and who may be unable to distinguish rotten fish from oatmeal has determined that a particular wine has notes of Fuji apple.

Ergo, write whatever you want. Few care, few will read it, and we're all gonna die.

Reply by JonDerry, Jan 27, 2017.

I once told Mark about my binary scale, and he seemed to like the idea.

0 - Not a good wine

1 - A good wine (worthwhile, and/or one to seek out again)

Reply by dvogler, Jan 27, 2017.


I had a rough day too, but sheesh!  I was going to invite you to my "For the Love of Wine" blog, but forget it.

I have three tasting sites bookmarked.  They all taste and score BC wine (obviously of interest to me) and two of them taste and score other stuff.  They often re-taste and update the notes a year or more later.  They aren't folksy or condescending, just the facts. 

I put a few notes on Cellartracker, generally when it's worth commenting on.

I'd like Grand Cru to step in with the final word on tasting notes.

Reply by dvogler, Jan 27, 2017.

Oh JD, wasn't it your birthday last week? 

Reply by GregT, Jan 27, 2017.

Sorry DV. Was on a bit of a rant.

Reply by JonDerry, Jan 27, 2017.

My half birthday was on Sunday, though Dm recently had one.

Reply by amour, Jan 28, 2017.


And we know when we like a wine...because...because...we order a case!!!!

When I truly enjoy a wine....I want to share it with others! regards entertaining-

I share wines that I like...however, I do ask my guests what they like and buy that as well...or they bring it along!
I DO NOT GO ON PRICE...I go on taste.....I certainly do not go on other people's tasting notes...BUT THEY DO PROVIDE A GUIDELINE.....
As I said as much as I have a palate for  Grand Cru...I do often discover the beauty in some ordinary I am always tasting widely.....instead of merely reading the tasting notes!!!!

A good example is how I discovered the beauty of  LAFAURIE PEYRAGUEY (BOMMES) substitute for Yquem but it is really good!!

Reply by dmcker, Jan 28, 2017.

So Greg, can we take this as your explanation for why you never post notes here?

Reply by GregT, Jan 29, 2017.


I tasted over 100 wines yesterday and wrote short notes on each. I looked them over today and they reminded me of what I was thinking when I wrote them. But they'd be of little use to anyone else and to the degree that they were quick impressions, they're of questionable accuracy anyway. It's not like I think some French chateau is going to be affected one way or another by what I say, but I'd rather be more careful and thoughtful if I were to write something.

Like take this wine I'm drinking right now. It's really ripe, pretty sweet, and really tannic. Bad? No. But stylistically, it's pushing it too much, coming in at 15% and lacking any subtlety or elegance. It's only a $25 wine, but still. I opened it to go with this barbacoa burrito that was supposed to be extraordinary, although it too is nothing special.

I was going to make fish and I planned to have it with a nice white from Mt. Etna.

Should have gone with that.

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