Tips for Taking Wine Notes - dummies

By Ed McCarthy, Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Some people have a special ability to remember tastes, especially when it comes to wine. But other people need to take notes in order to remember what wine they tasted, and what they thought of it.

If you have the slightest difficulty remembering wine names, jot down the names of wines you try and like so you can enjoy them — or similar wines — again. It’s a good idea to write comments about the wines, too. Even if you’re one of those lucky few who can remember everything you taste, consider writing tasting notes now and then because the exercise of taking notes helps discipline your tasting methods.

When you take notes on wines, consider writing the letters

  • C (for color and appearance in general)

  • N (for nose)

  • T (for taste, or mouth impressions)

Put one below the other, under the name of each wine on our tasting sheet, leaving space to record our impressions.

Take each wine as it comes: If a wine is very aromatic, you might write lots of things next to N, but if the aroma is understated, you could just write subtle or even not much. When the wine is in your mouth, approach it sequentially, noting its attack and evolution; hold the wine long enough to note its balance and texture, too.

Then (having spat if you choose), you could taste the wine again to determine what else it may be saying. At that point, you could arrive at a summary description of the wine, like a huge wine packed with fruitiness thats ready to drink now, or a lean, austere wine that will taste better with food than alone. Tasting notes are a combination of fragmented observation — high acid, very crisp — and summary description.

At first, your own notes will be brief. Just a few words, like soft, fruity or tannic, austere are fine to remind you later what the wine was like. And as an evaluation of overall quality, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with yummy!

Just keep in mind that the taste of a wine is more than just aromas and flavors. Instead of searching for ever more fruit or flower descriptors, move on to consider the dryness or sweetness, the body, or the texture. These characteristics are more important in pairing wine with food than the wine’s actual flavors are.

If a wine inspires you to fanciful description, by all means go with it. The experience of that wine will become memorable through the personal words you use to name it. When you do lapse into metaphor over a wine, though, don’t expect others to necessarily understand what you mean.

Beware of anyone who is moved to poetry over every wine, however. The vast majority of wines are prosaic, and their descriptions should be, too.

In the end, the experience of wine is so personal that the best anyone can do is to try to describe the experience to others. Your descriptions will be meaningful to people who share your approach and your language, especially if they’re tasting the wine along with you. But someone else picking up your notes could find them incomprehensible. Likewise, you’ll find some wine descriptions you read incomprehensible. Such is the nature of the exercise.