Monday, February 8, 2010

A Reader Asks...About Keeping Track of Wines

"Confused in Casa Grande" writes, “What method do you use to keep track of the wines you have tried and liked or disliked? Paper? Computer? What ratings do you use so you can remember you would like to have it again or not?

Well, Confused, I’ll start by dealing with what I do, and then I’ll talk about what you can do. They might not be the same.

I’m not sure anyone knows how many wines are produced worldwide each year. The LCBO, which is the government-run retailer here in Ontario, has over 9,000 different wines in its on-line inventory. With that kind of choice, when it comes to wine, I’m really rather promiscuous. I rarely try the same wine twice. Occasionally, there’s a wine that really stands out, or it’s a varietal that’s quite rare, but, in that case, it will stick in my memory. (Whatever brain cells I’m destroying while drinking, it’s not those.) This also means that I rarely buy multiples of wine, except to have them to give as gifts. Buy a case of one wine? How boring! So I don’t keep track of wines that I’ve tried because I probably won’t try those wines, specifically, again. (Mind you, now that I’m posting my tasting notes on this blog, I guess that amounts to keeping a record.)

OK, now that I’ve trashed all you “loyal” wine drinkers out there, how do you keep track of the wines you like, or don’t like? There are many structured paper journals available (check Amazon or Chapters/Indigo). I think that using one of these paper journals as you taste wine is easier than using a computer. For me, there’s something off about sitting with a glass of wine and a computer. (But keeping a list of those wines you like on a computer makes sense.) Most of these journals follow, in some way, the “classic” method of evaluating a wine:
  • Appearance
  • Aromas
  • Taste & Structure (acidity, tannins, flavours)
  • Texture (weight, mouthfeel)
  • Finish (length, character, balance, overall impression & conclusion)
You have to be a bit wine-geeky (like me) to pay attention to all these factors. Chances are that you’ll be interested mostly in a wine’s dominant flavour, the level of acidity or tannins, and whether it’s light-bodied or full-bodied. Pay attention to these things as you taste a wine: What flavour do I taste? Is there a lot of acidity or just a little? If it’s a red, is there a high level of tannins or not much? Does the wine feel light or heavy in my mouth?

Don’t make it too complicated. Just start keeping track of these things and whether or not you like them. Not only will you begin to keep track of wines that you like but also, more importantly, what type of wines you like. Then, if you go into an unfamiliar store or restaurant, you know what type of wine to ask for.

I’m not a fan of numerical scores, simply because I don’t believe that even experienced tasters are consistent with scoring.

One other thing that you should look for. Some wines are better with food, and some are better on their own. As a (dangerous) generalization, Old World wine producers make their wines for you to consume with food; New World wine producers make wines for you to consume on their own. So don’t be shy about adjusting your notes if you find that your wine tastes better (or worse) with the food you’re having.

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