Perfecting the tasting notes

Tasting note is the main writing genre in the wine industry.

Is there a gold standard? What attributes compose the ideal tasting note for you?

I see a dilemma between the author and the reader. There are many obvious reasons why one would write a tasting note. Capture the impression from the wine, mental note, the way to structure own wine knowledge. Tasting note oftentimes works as the marketing tool to promote the wine, helps to sell it. It also can be a pure wine assessment following certain grid to evaluate the wine. All the spectrum from poetic to detailed technical sheets.

What about the reader? What are you looking for when reading others' tasting notes? I find 95% of them banal and a complete waste. Limited vocabulary makes it hard to distinguish between the vast universe of wines out there. What is the added value the tasting note should bring?

I can only echo the quote by Nick Jackson MW on what are his criterias for good wine critique:
  • In depth knowledge of the region and its history
  • Descriptions of the character and true quality of the wine rather than just a laundry list of flavours
  • A willingness to take a stand on drinking dates, relative value and to call out underperforming estates
  • A sense of where a wine fits into the region as it is today
I would maybe add the factor what makes the particular wine to be remembered. It could be either emotional or rational or even both. But the key takeaway concluding the impression.

Please share your views on the the subject matter.
Are we talking about professional tasting notes or the more broader delivery? I look for different things dependent on what the context is. If it is professional notes then I would agree with the Nick Jackson quote. I guess it is the more technical, succinct note that paints a broad brushstroke of the wine (after all we will generally all have some differing experiences dependent on our respective palates). That is why it is so crucial to find a professional critic that you can draw parallels with to your own preferences. For me, Clive Coates was my intro to Burgundy and Neal Martin for Bordeaux (and latterly Burgundy) and Jasper Morris, I found that James Halliday and Huon Hooke gave me great insight back in the day to Aussie wines but having said that, none were followed slavishly, they were more signposters of things I should look out for and if found get some examples to try, then onwards an upwards.

As for non professional notes, I love reading the drinking threads on here as they are the things that inspire me to try more broadly and what I look for, as Thom noted, is something that makes me thirsty
While the basics (e.g. levels of acidity, sweetness, tannins etc) may be banal, I think they are esential. Well OK, certain wines can be assumed to be dry, but apart from that.... By all means add stuff, but the basics help with food matching.

I also feel short-changed if, after a lengthy description, I have no idea whether the author liked the wine - if intense, was it intense in a good or a bad way?
I find HRH”s very short and pithy, probably as a result of tasting every wine on the planet for PP subscribers. Not worth
£89 to me.

I recently subscribed using a promotion code and certainly was surprised on how laconic her notes are.

i much prefer Neal Martin’s style. He draws connections to other wines and in a way throws the net out wider so you have a way in to his experience.
A good question, and one I suspect there is no one answer that suits all. e.g. well regarded examples range from the minimalist but carefully considered Michael Broadbent, through to the evocative and strident Robert Parker.

Some random jottings:
- For most of us, the main point should be to aid our own memories, in remembering what a wine was like.
- It also to helps us express what we like / don't like better, and for relative newcomers, this can be a great way to be able to inform a good wine merchant, so that person can guide us to more suitable wines e.g. I loved the vibrancy of that wine and loved the different floral aromas
- The language of tasting notes can be off-putting for many, putting on a layer of mystique which clouds rather than illuminates. As a personal preference, I rather dislike pomposity and obtuseness ("swooping paving slabs" is but one example)
- Remember back to the first tasting notes you wrote and how you felt embarrassment at what you'd written / fear of writing the wrong answers. It's tough to start with, but does get easier.
- There are some good learning tools to help people start writing tasting notes. I particularly liked Michael Schuster's essential winetasting book, which acts as a teaching guide of what to look for. Also worth mentioning is the multi-choice tasting sheets developed by Ric Einstein (aka TORB), an enthusiastic hobbyist. One element he covered very well, was ensuring the structural elements were covered, which really helps drive people away from simple fruit salad listing.
- Some prefer the discipline of hard and fast categorisation e.g. Nose, eye, etc. and their note is properly sectioned this way. Others completely avoid that, only mentioning what they see as informative. I'm probably somewhere in the middle, in following the broad structure, but trying to write so it doesn't feel rigidly structured e.g. like I'm talking to a small group of people at a table.
- As in all genres, a good reviewer will explain clearly what they experienced. That may also include their opinion, but the sign of a really useful review is where you agree with the elements yet disagree on the conclusion.
I recently received some marketing material from Majestic, which quoted a tasting note by Jamie Goode from his Express column (which I've never seen myself, what with it it being the Express and all). It referred to the wine in question as being (among other things) "detailed" and "linear", both of which descriptors are of course very fashionable these days (along with "saline" and "mineral" et al). It just made me think that such terms would mean absolutely nothing to the average civilian, at whom these notes were presumably aimed.

The old-skool wine commentators used to get a lot of stick from the likes of Parker for using expressions like "elegant" to describe wines, instead of the fruit-salad descriptions he preferred, but, so far as I am concerned, "elegant" tells me more about what to expect from a wine than does "linear".
I think there is a huge difference between tasting notes for very young wines, probably tasted from barrel, which need to be analytical and given the volume of them needed to cover a Burgundy vintage, are likely to be on the prosaic side, though enthusiasms should certainly show through, and ruminations on mature bottles which should ideally follow W Wordsworth's 'emotion recollected in tranquillity'
This, if true, would make your opinions totally irrelevant. You can't be serious?
It is not perhaps entirely beyond the realms of possibility that I am not being completely serious, Johnny, but I certainly don't wish my views on wine to be thought relevant. I think I would find that rather alarming, particularly at a time when more pressing matters demand our consideration.
Thank you so much for sharing your own views!

I would also like to quote Sarah Kirschbaum's answer to a similar question on Winebeserkers some time ago.

I find tasting notes most helpful when they include most or all of the following:

- How was the wine handed? (Decanting, stems used, how long it was open before serving, serving temp etc.)
- Some comment on the nose - expressive, mute, any offensive notes?
- Some comment on the body and weight
- Some sense of the palate - Balanced? Acidic? Tannic? Mouthfeel? Fruit? Mineral?
- How did the wine behave over time and how long was that time?
- How did the wine strike you emotionally? Or simply, did you like it?
- Some comment on current drinkability and projection of its future aging curve.

I find those things can encapsulate the experience of drinking a wine, and help me understand that wine, more than a list of fruits and flowers and spices, though those are interesting, too.

On a separate note. There is one other observation that annoys me a lot. Wine critics by the definition are the opinion leaders. For quite an obvious reason they choose the language and tone of voice which avoids even slight negativism. This creates a significant perversion. Think of how often do you see such politically correct expressions like 'less exciting', 'outshined', etc. We never see awful wines, unless the one is flawed. I know many examples when in private, with cameras off, same people can be very blunt and straightforward and have no hesitation to send the wine to the sink. The hypocrisy brings the distortion to the world of wine and how the wines are perceived, especially by non-professionals. Equally, when critics decide to exclude specific wines from the reviews, following the approach 'good or nothing'. What message does it convey to the market? The wines that are not reviewed are automatically underperformers? That puts all new winemakers and those undiscovered together with those underperformers. Mixed message...

For quite an obvious reason they choose the language and tone of voice which avoids even slight negativism.
Not only that, but they all compete for the 'maximum excitement' award for each wine, thus ensuring that the most gushing tasting note is used in promo e-mails etc. and the taster then remains relevant and wins subscriptions. Not only is negativity verboten, but boosterism is massively encouraged by the whole system. I have to admit that apart from JLL, I no longer read or subscribe to professional tasting notes, although I do pine after Steven Tanzer a bit. I do trust and enjoy most of the tasting notes on the forum though. I know most of the authors, I can factor in their personal enthusiasms, and I know that they have no axe to grind - they're just sharing their impressions within a community. I also try to post negative notes as well for balance - this isn't Faceboast after all!
I'm 90 on all the comments above.
Apart from the ones I'm not.

I don't really have anything analytical to add to the conversion, but when it comes to Word Salad and people's taste in tasting notes just look at Cellartracker and see that Richard Jennings is one of the most favourite amateur tasters. His notes are utterly word diarrhoea devoid of emotion, meaning, context. And people love it. I am not sure what the conclusion is for others - for me it is that you can write any old shit and some people will like it.
Obviously very much depend on who you are writing for. My own notes are short and poor for others. A professional has so much more to convey.
It also interesting to compare a written note when drinking. It shows how different we all are. Those long lists of fruit etc, are often not there for me. My drinking companion might say"I get the orange but the raspberry is more cherry to me" So I prefer myself a simpler description. On the other hand a friend seems to dislike cherry in his Pinot, so is always looking for that in a note to tell him if he'll like it. I'm not sure I ever get the flavour he dislikes.