Wine tasting notes should be the most useful tips to see before you buy a wine. In the past 10 years, wine tasting notes have shifted more to consumer ratings that tend to be more unbiased. However, there is no standard for writing wine tasting notes. This guide will help you write useful and accurate wine tasting notes.
First things first. In order to write great notes, it’s important to make sure that your taste buds are receiving all the nuances of a wine. For some tips, check out Geek Technique on How to Taste Red Wine. You also might like to take a look at The Basic Wine Guide.
How to Write Excellent Wine Tasting Notes
Identifying wine flavors and how to list them
Wine aromas fall under three general categories:
- PRIMARY AROMAS: Aromas from the type of grape and the terroir. Primary aromas include notes such as Raspberry, Plum, Gooseberry, Black Pepper, Tobacco Leaf and Licorice.
- SECONDARY BOUQUETS: Bouquets from the winemaking process. Secondary bouquets include notes such as Fresh Baked Bread, Lager, Sour Cream, Fresh Butter and Yogurt.
- TERTIARY BOUQUETS: Bouquets from aging and often oak. Tertiary bouquets notes include Clove, Vanilla, Baking Spices, Hazelnut, Walnut, Dill, Fig, Coconut, Smoke and Almond. Learn about oak aging.
Knowing where different wine aromas or bouquets come from will help you become better at writing your wine notes. Check out How to Taste Wine for more information on this topic.
TIP: When you write down flavors, try to list the most obvious ones first. This helps create a hierarchy of importance.
What you mention first is important. For instance, “Blackberry and Pepper” sounds more fruit-forward than “Pepper and Blackberry”.
How to describe tannin, acidity and body
- BODY: When you focus on the taste, you’ll be thinking about how the wine feels your mouth. The body is perhaps the most obvious note and it’s very important to mention because it helps build the profile in your mind of the wine you’re tasting. Is it light? Middle of the road? Bold? Write it down.
- TANNIN: Tannin can seem tricky, but it’s easier if you focus on texture. Does the tannin have a lot of grip to it? (does it make your lips stick to your teeth?). Does the tannin fill your mouth with delicate tiny prickles? You can find some examples of wine descriptions used for tannin on our Wine Descriptions Infographic.
- ACIDITY: Acidity is how tart or puckering a wine is. For instance, a wine with high acidity (low on the pH scale) will have acidity similar to a lemon or lime, whereas lower acidity wines are closer to the acidity of a watermelon.
Wine Descriptions and What They Really Mean
Want to learn more vocab words for acidity, body and tannin in wine? Check out the Wine Descriptions Infographic.
It’s all about the finish
Have you ever noticed that when you first taste a wine you can’t tell if you like it right away? This is because you’re pausing, waiting for the finish — that moment after the flavor dissipates. The finish is often the defining moment of a wine; it can be the difference between an 89 point wine and a 95 point wine. Here is a basic list of different types of finishes on a wine. You might keep these in mind as general profiles the next time you’re wine tasting. They are very useful in identifying what you like in a wine.
- The Sweet Tannin Finish – This is the classic ‘ahhh’ moment for most wine drinkers. While the wine may be completely dry, the finish has a note of sweetness to it, almost like sweet blackberry or sweet tobacco. On a white wine it will be more like vanilla or sweet lemon.
- Tart but Tingly Finish – This wine will taste more tart or bitter on the finish. It may have some green notes to it, but on a good quality wine the acidity will tingle and persist; giving the wine a delicate, long finish. This style is not as popular with about 50% of drinkers, but it has a small-but-serious following of supporters who love tart and savory flavors.
- ‘Juicy’ and ‘Fresh’ Finish – The wine words ‘juicy’ and ‘fresh’ often indicate a wine that has a lot of Secondary flavors on the finish. These yeasty notes are commonly associated with ‘freshly’ made wine, which might be how the term came about.
But wait, where’s the voice?
Will this system make wine tasting notes devoid of voice and art? There might be a way to add your style into the mix. Here are two examples, one is a bad note and the other one is pretty close to useful.