Men of Taste - Because Good Taste is Hard
to Come By These Days
Perhaps you think you have good taste. Chances
are, since you've visited mainwine.com,
that you do. But do you have Supertaste?
That's another question altogether, which we gon't go into
now. For the novice wine enthusiast, the perplexing plethora
of terms used to describe a wine can be somewhat daunting.
That's a shame, because there is no official dictionary of
wine terms, although there are certainly more familiar agreed
upon terms (See links, sidebar). Perhaps more important than the ability
to describe a wine is the ability to taste it in the first
place. And to enjoy it. And then to do it again.
John Here is a real "Leg Man">>>
According to modern
science, there are three levels of ability to discern
taste: Non-tasters (like Giri); Medium Tasters; and Supertasters
(like Ian). Unless you're a Non-taster (and you're probably
not a Supertaster, there are not that many of them), you could
easily become what we will call a "Good Taster."
All that means is you know how to pay attention to what you're
consuming, you have a good memory for previous experiences
with wine, you know what you like and you can approach the
subject with a combination of intellectual rigor and hedonistic
joy. Combine a Good Taster with a solid command of the English
language, and you have one incomprehensible individual, whose
experience of a wine comes across more like a geology survey
("...the earthy nose burrows into a concrete dustiness
that finishes with a hint of flint...") than a pleasant
libation. Our favorite wine notes come from people who choose
a more associative approach, like:
"...this wine is like returning to
the womb, swaddling one in rich warm berry hues that comfort
like a mother's voice..."
If that were an actual tasting note, we'd
probably recommend a therapist before another glass of wine,
but you get the idea. The real point, in our opinion, is to
enjoy some wine, and share the experience, as indicated in
our taste-off below. Even a novice, however, should know the
Give it a swirl. This helps aerate the wine
a bit, it releases aromas by coating the side of the glass
with a thin sheet of wine that evaporates quickly. From the
grape to your nose, as it should be. You can also ascertain
something about the wine's alcohol content and overall viscosity
by examining the "legs" after swirling. Thicker
legs means more alcohol. And don't forget color as an indicator
of grape varietal, age, quality, etc. But for the most part,
visual appreciation of wine is more or less meaningless. It's
about DRINKING the liquid, yes?
Use a good glass. If you think the shape
doesn't matter, you are seriously misinformed. The shape has
a profound effect on the way the wine presents to the nose,
as what you're experiencing, to a large extent, is the release
of alcohol molecules, and different shapes concentrate the
vapors differently. Different glasses will also present the
wine to your palate in different ways, affecting taste and
texture. As for thickness, very thin crystal is the best.
Use large glasses so your pour doesn't exceed a quarter or
a third of the glass - leaves room for swirling and for the
more nasally <cough> gifted amongst us.
Give it a taste. In our opinion, convoluted
bubbling inhalations of air will help you analyze a wine in
depth, but will really only tell you how it tastes when you engage in convoluted bubblings. Just
bring some wine into your mouth and give it a little taste.
You can swish it around to release more aromas - a huge part
of tasting depends on the nose. Try tasting anything when
you have a cold. It's hard to really assess the "finish"
if you spit (spitting's okay at Main Wine Club - see photo),
but in this writer's opinion swallowing will slowly deteriorate
your ability to taste if you sample more than several wines.
(We're not really sure what the man pictured is doing. We
think he may have lost an earring, or doesn't feel well.)
Take a break between every few tastes. Drink
some water, nibble on some food. (Or, like Giri, put a lampshade
on your head and swing from chandelier to chandelier shouting
"I'm Spiderman! You'll never catch up with Spidey-baby!")
Keeping notes is good. However, these men are actually placing
Other considerations that impact the experience
of a wine:
What you're eating - some wines are really
ghastly until you try them with the cheese that makes them
reveal their reason for existing. (Replace 'cheese' with pasta,
fish, steak, lamb, bread, etc.; Different wines will certainly
have affinities for different kinds of food. Exploring this
is fun in itself.)
Breathing - many wines need considerable
exposure to oxygen to become themselves, and are wretchedly
boring until they "open up". Often, this can be
an indication that the wine will get better with cellaring.
For fun, and to hopefully inspire some of
the Main Wine Club regulars to submit some tasting notes,
Giri and Ian had a friendly "taste-off" at our May
tasting of wines from the south of France. This is especially
amusing as Giri is an accomplished and knowledgeable wine
drinker, while Ian retired several years ago, and now lives
on Espresso and Dunhills (yup, he's a spitter).
Ian is a former lush who never drinks, but has many years'
experience in the food & wine industry, as well as being
a member of the Screenwriters Guild, which firmly establishes
him as a non-writer. Giri is an experienced, intelligent,
and avid wine drinker, with a college education, approximately
1100 taste buds, and a day job, which officially establishes
him as a, as a... prune-faced snob.
So, on to the notes...
Chateau La Roque "Cupa Numismae"-
Pic Saint Loup, 2000
G: Some cedar and herbs on the bright,
red fruit nose. Currants and blackberries on the palate; slight
dustiness and "gravel" on the finish. Plenty of
tannins and acid to go the long haul. Well-balanced, long
finish. Very good stuff...
I: I agree on the tannin and dustiness,
however I'm picking up much more of a smokiness than any solid
berry qualities. Nicely balanced, but bring a fire extinguisher
'til 2004, when the fire should've settled down a bit.
Domaine St. Martin de la Garrigue "Bronzinelle"-
Coteaux du Langedoc, 1999
I: It's always a bigger disappointment
when a wine with such a long name is so short on everything
else that matters. This one's a BIG BABY! All that Delicious
Red Appleness, no guts. Pah!! Finishes like a Giorgio
Brutini $24.99 shoe. (Sure Ian. But do you like it?)
G: Plenty of berry, malic acid on
the palate. Herbs, cherries, and some earth on the nose. There's
depth, balance, and well-integrated tannins. This will last.
Give it time and/or air. I like it a lot. Ian knows NOTHING!
I SAY NOTHING!
Comte Cathare "Syrache"- Corbieres,
I: Chewy! Although nicely balanced
and very palatable, the youthful leather this one possesses
would be most suited for rinsing down a nice Tournedos Forrestier,
extra cheese. Do not attempt this wine alone!
G: Bright and grenache-ey. Mint and
cherries, followed by plenty of juicy acidity and red fruit.
Medium finish. Very nice overall, would be better with some
Comte Cathare "Syrvedre"- Corbieres,
G: This one shows both grapes well
(as opposed to above). A little "garrigue"(c'mon
Giri, I can't afford to actually go there...), some wet earth,
raspberries and prunes on the nose. Clean and fresh on the
palate, with a little grunginess creeping back in on the medium
finish. Decent but no Syrache! Hah! (Giri, stop using words
I have to look up!)
I: If raspberries could explode gently
and collide with nicely-worn velvet... although it first presents
a bit of smoke and earth, it really cuts loose with some grapes
and berries later, and has a reasonably gentle finish with
hints of flintiness.
Domaine de Fontsainte "Reserve la
Demoiselle" - Corbieres, 1999
I: Yikes. This has the most subdued
nose I've ever encountered. Unfortunately it follows with
a simple astringency that makes you run for the cheese plate.
Thank God, the Main Wine Club has one. Two thumbs down. (After
running for the cheese-plate, I conceded to Giri, below)
G: You're such a New World BABY!
Gentle nose, yes, but very pleasant. The palate is cool and
soft, well-balanced. If you actually did try it with some
cheese, you might change your mind. Pretty good.
Chateau La Roque
Pic Saint Loup, 2000
Domaine St. Martin
de la Garrigue "Bronzinelle"- Coteaux
"Syrache"- Corbieres, 1998
"Syrvedre"- Corbieres, 1998
Domaine de Fontsainte
"Reserve la Demoiselle" - Corbieres,
Wine Doctor Wine Glossary
With Audio Files for Proper
An extensive list of more resources, in various languages.