Have you ever tasted a great wine at a party, a restaurant — even a wine tasting — and thought, "I have to remember this one," but then promptly forgot the name of it the very next day?
Whether you’re a beginner or an old pro, you’ve probably experienced this. If you can at least remember something about the wine, you can try calling back to the store or restaurant to say something like, "Last night I had a French wine that started with a ‘G,’ " but even then, there’s no guarantee.
The best way to recall what you liked — and didn’t like — is to keep track of it in a wine journal. Of course, this sounds very "wine-geeky," and it probably is. But it’s helpful in expanding your wine knowledge.
First off, what exactly is a wine journal and where do you get one? Some wine stores sell pocket-sized, plastic-bound books that have pre-printed pages with spaces for the winery, varietal, year, tasting notes and even the label, if you’re inclined to soak or steam it off the bottle carefully.
I use a blank book, which you can buy more reasonably at any bookstore. Mine is a 9-by-7-inch hardbound book, which gives me ample room on each page for all the details and brief notes on about six wines — the usual number served at a tasting.
Yes, the book is kind of large to tote around, but I don’t cart it with me to every dinner or tasting. I don’t have to. At most tastings, you get a list with the name and price of each wine and room for notes. I scribble on the sheet and then transcribe it into my big book at a later date.
If I drink something especially exciting at a restaurant or wine bar, I jot down the name and a few words about it on any scrap of paper and put it in my purse to add to the book the next day.
It might feel weird at first to write down your opinions, particularly if you aren’t very knowledgable about wine. Don’t worry about using fancy terms — just describe what you taste in a way that will jog your memory.
Just for fun, here’s one of my tasting notes from a few years back: "Yuck. Bad aroma, flat taste." Well, that about sums up that pinot grigio.
Or how about this French red: "It smells like an outhouse."
See? It’s not so tough. As you attend more tastings and classes, though, you’ll want to get familiar with some of the wine language.
You don’t need to write a Wine Spectator review, like this: "This red is juicy and ripe, with brier, raspberry, spice and cocoa notes, and a hint of mineral on the fleshy finish. Harmonious."
But do try to pick out whether the wine is light-, medium- or heavy-bodied and what kinds of fruit you detect when you smell and taste it, and eventually move into learning some of the nuances. This will help you learn your own palate. That way when you read a review that says "floral aromas" or "heavily oaked" or "earthy," you will know whether those characteristics turn you on or off.
If you love reading descriptions of wine in magazines such as the Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate, or even if they make you squint and scratch your head, then check out the Silly Tasting Note Generator web site:
The site gives a randomly-generated wine description with a twist. Here’s an example: "Flourished but equally whimsical Chenin Blanc. Opens with stewed prune, wicked honey and corpulent peach. Drink now through Tuesday."