For both casual and avid wine drinkers alike, tasting notes are an important barometer in gauging how likely one is to enjoy that particular wine. While the memory of tasting wines may last for several days, when you frequently sample many wines in a short period of time, they can be hard to accurately remember down to the last detail. Of course, the best and worst wines almost always stick out, but the vast majority of wines fall somewhere in between. This is why it’s important to take useful tasting notes.
From the blurb on the bottle’s label to in-depth write-ups by esteemed critics, wine notes aim to give the reader a solid understanding of what they’re about to taste. Enthusiasts take their own notes to help recall the characteristics of a specific wine and how to differentiate between them, not to mention particular standout bottles and ones to avoid in future. We spoke to Lukasz Kolodziejczyk, head of fine wine at Cult Wines, who shares a beginners guide to taking wine tasting notes.
1. The details
This is the wine’s basic identifying information, so be sure to include:
• The producer
• The wine’s full name
• The vintage
• Region of origin
• Grape variety or varieties
• Alcohol percentage
You might also want to include anything interesting in relation to its history, winemaker or vineyard – these types of details can be a useful memory trigger when sets of notes otherwise seem similar.
Appearance is perhaps less important than it used to be. Obviously note the colour – red or white – but otherwise you need only focus on particularly unusual elements – if it’s very pale or dark given its variety, or if it’s cloudy, for example. It’s worth giving extra attention to rose and sparkling wines, though, as their appearances can be much more diverse.
3. Aromas and flavours
This is where tasters tend to obsess the most about their notes, given the almost limitless number of descriptors that can be used to describe a particular flavour, and this is also where a wide range of vocabulary comes in handy. If you label every note as ‘plum’ or ‘herbal’, it will be it harder to tell them apart when you revisit them in future. Consider subcategories of common terms – fruit, for example, can be broken down into citrus fruits, melon, pit fruits, seed fruits and tropical fruits. Other things to note are whether the aromas and flavours are subtle or powerful, and whether or not they change in the glass.
A wine’s structure is comprised of many parts, although the main ones are acidity (refreshment), tannins (dryness), body, alcohol, and texture. For beginners, it’s helpful to approach these with a straightforward low-medium-high scale and using + and – marks to modify where necessary.
The finish refers to how long the taste remains on your palate. Generally speaking, the longer the finish, the higher the quality of wine. Again, a simple short-medium-long scale works just fine. You might also note the style of the aftertaste, and whether it is tingly and tart, soft and smooth, or fresh and juicy.
6. Overall impressions
Here, you can sum up your final thoughts with a rating (number of stars, marks out of 10, and so on) as well as freestyle your impressions with any notes that don’t ‘fit’ in the above sections. This will help you to distinguish between your favourite wines even if their tasting notes are almost equally positive.