Thursday, September 13, 2012

How I Taste



STEVE! recently wrote a post with this title, which, frankly, scared the crap out of me. But it turned out not to be about how he tastes, but about how he tastes wine. Phew, that was a close one. But STEVE!’s post did get me thinking about how I taste wine, which is the correct way. There are many ways to taste wine, but only one correct way. Mine. Just get over it, and either admit your way is stupid and carry on, or learn to taste like I do.

The first, and maybe most important, step is to put on my tasting clothes. You cannot produce consistent tasting notes wearing different clothes all the time. Duh. The best critics know this, which explains why Steve Tanzer is always in a ball gown. You just can’t underdress for the finest wineries. Wearing a different set of clothing for different varieties is acceptable, however. For example, if you want to wear a track suit every time you taste Merlot, that’s fine. Merlot is old man wine anyway, so a track suit makes sense. A pee stain is a nice touch. The only thing one shouldn’t wear is a muumuu. They’re for tasting milk. Oh man, that’s a good one! No, actually, it’s fine to wear a muumuu for tasting wine—IF YOU’RE 350 POUNDS. So Parker and Shanken. I wear Spanx under a pale blue leisure suit. It’s both comfortable and stylish.

Proper Poodle Tasting Chapeau*   
Next I make sure that the wines I’m tasting are covered in tin foil. This is not to hide the labels, but, rather, to match the tin foil hat I’m wearing, which protects me from the evil, mind-controlling thoughts of aliens, most notably Antonio Galloni and Michael Bettane. They transmit powerful rays that can penetrate your skull and make you not only give the wines higher scores than they deserve, which has happened to many notable critics, but also make you crave the flesh of kittens. When’s the last time you saw a kitten with a noted wine critic? Laube has a house account at the local shelter. See.

The stemware is also important. First off, I prefer clean. After every sip. No double-dipping, that’s for idiots, amateurs and contributors to Palate Press, if there's a difference. If I need to retaste a wine, I request a fresh, clean glass. This is very important, particularly because my lipstick often leaves a stain and it’s not fair to the wine to taste it with lipstick. I just love my bubblegum lipstick, but find it’s only compatible with Chilean Chardonnay. Finally, I exclusively use Riedel Pompous Ass™ Stemware, the all-purpose Douchebag model, named for James Suckling.

Now I’m ready to taste. First I judge color. Does my lipstick go with my tin foil hat? Then I look at the wine. With my years of experience, I can often tell if the wine is red or white. Beginners are often fooled. Once I know the color of the wine, I can begin to formulate a score. A red wine automatically receives five more points than a white wine simply because it’s better. The same reasoning has been applied to the earning power of men versus women, and hasn’t that worked out? I know if I want a raise, I just have to lower my Spanx and wave my credentials. References available upon request.

Next it’s time to smell the wine. Initially, I check for off-aromas. Unless it’s German wine, and then I check for Pfalz. Oh, man, another good one! I’m hotter than Lodi Zin today. My tin foil hat must be picking up the Comedy Channel. Perhaps the wine is corked. A wine that is corked is often described as having the aroma of wet dog, though I find the aroma reminiscent of Harvey Steiman’s laundry hamper. (Long story.) If the aromatics of the wine are fault-free, I begin to analyze its components. I’m looking for beauty, complexity, interest, purity and every other thing I can think of that is vague and doesn’t make me have to come up with more specific adjectives. Mostly, I ask myself, “Do it smell good?” I ask out loud, most of the time, which usually really ticks off the other judges on my panel.

It’s important to remember that wine engages all of your senses, like drowning. If you’re short on senses, you just shouldn’t drink wine. Blind people should drink beer. It’s good for what ales ya. Man, I’m a Buddhist monk today—on fire! True wine appreciation requires sight, smell, taste, feel and hearing. Hearing? Yes, hearing. I can tell you for a fact that the best and most important wine critics hear lots of voices in their heads. Something a simple tin foil hat can prevent. Tim Fish, at least, knows this.

Finally, it’s time to taste the wine. I like to take a nice healthy sip. I’d guess about four or five ounces at a time. I know that seems like a lot, but, really, you need that much to gargle. What is it I’m looking for in a wine’s taste? First of all, balance. What does balance taste like? For a good reference point, toss down a shot of Jim Beam. Come on, who doesn’t love the balance Beam? Sometimes I’ll go to two different places and order the same shot of balance Beam. Yup, those are parallel bars. Whooeee, I’m cooking with gas now. I then look for the intensity of the fruit. This tells you a lot about yield. It’s like women—the more intense ones are the ones that will lower their yield. But it’s texture that means the most in tasting wine. Something in a nice corduroy is great. Wines can also be velvety, satiny or a nice taffeta. So I look for wines that most closely resemble bridesmaids’ dresses.

And, finally, the finish.  

*Thanks to Samantha for the Photo


28 comments:

Mockingbird said...

First.

On seeing that title, I thought STEVE! had finally achieved success with that one yoga position.

Daniel said...

you forgot to add "I'll be here all week, don't forget to tip your servers".

the Monk comment nearly made me shoot my morning bellini out my nose.

thank you for that

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
I had been hoping for a Ron Washam tasting note...always been curious but at least I did get a good belly laugh, nothing shot out my nose but I may have tooted a little. I love you!

Stillman Brown said...

STEVE! drinks from a horse trough.

Anonymous said...

Ron that was so brilliant to see you catch on fire and burn so brightly wow! I always knew you had the best taster...according to you! Cheers, Tman

Anonymous said...

speaking of that one yoga posture, legend has it that the Italian writer Gabriele d'Annunzio is said to have had a rib bone removed to facilitate a "more flexible position".

-AC

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Mockingbird,
It certainly should have won a Poodle for Creepiest Blog Post Title.

Daniel,
Yeah, I just decided to write one of those really stupid posts, just one silly thing after another. Sort of like how most blogs read. Sorry to ruin your morning bellini.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Maybe I should write a post about "How Other Bloggers Taste." Wanna go first?

Stillman,
Only when he tastes Marelot.

Tman,
I've rarely been accused of having taste, and not by me.

Alfonso,
You know, there's a gag there somewhere. Literally.

Gerry Dawes said...

Just so I am not influenced by anything, I carry a ten-foot length of syphon tubing with me on my trips to Spain.

When time to taste the wines comes, I turn my back to the winery principal, throw the hose over my shoulder and ask the winemaker to insert the other end of the tube into the glass or tank (I am allergic to new oak, so I don't taste from barrel). I draw a measure of wine through the hose and into my mouth (to Hell with smelling the stuff; they all smell like rubber, anyway). This way I don't have to look at the winery guy and possibly be influenced by his facial expressions.

I have had only a couple of bad experience, but I don't often encounter wine types who stick other end the tube in a toilet and crap like that (which may be where Anthony Hanson got his immortal line, "Great Burgundy tastes of shit.")

The rubber syphon tube has other advantages. For instance, from the very first pull on the tube, you can taste what the wine will be like if shows up in a bag in the box. And it actually adds character to those wines bottled under screwcap or plastic stoppers.

All in all, it is a system that may need improving upon, but it has served me very well on many occasions, like the time I ran out of gas in the middle of La Mancha.

Andrea said...

"It’s like women—the more intense ones are the ones that will lower their yield."
As always, freakin' genius & true. ;)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Gerry,
I guess that makes you the TubeMaster of Wine. Bravo!

Andrea,
Ahh, shucks, thanks for the sweet words.

Kathy said...

C'mon Ron, this is only half finished (like many wines).
Nobody stops until they spit no matter how well their shoes match the winemaker's.
Oh, you drink. Then, until you've fallen and can't get up.
I laughed and spit out wine on my new I-5. What a shame it only gets alien signals in the central valley.

Double Blind Daddy said...

Tasting wine out of tin foil may be fine for you, but a whole bunch of people taste out of paper bags. And like you, they don't just sip their wine, they drink it.

But there is a another flaw on your system. If you can handle the bottles, then you can tell which ones are heaviest, and like final exams, the heaviest ones get the highest grades.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Kathy,
I used to spit, but now I find dribbling is more fun. Could be age-related because I'm seeing my urologist for the same reason.

Charlie,
Ah, but I don't handle the bottles! I have trained monkeys that pour the tastes for me. Just like Wine Spectator.

BD said...

Good stuff. I laughed so hard I almost swallowed my Grüner.

Kathy said...

A guy used to call me on the news desk at the Trib to tell me aliens were invading, Luckily, he had a solution. He rigged his microwave so, with the door open, it shot nuclear waves out his window (hopefully not in STEVE!'s neighborhood). It kept the aliens at bay for normally as long as he had meds.
I never got his name. Are you related?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

BD,
Yikes! Sorry. But don't worry, if you accidentally swallow Gruner, just induce vomiting. Not your own--whomever you're tasting with.

Kathy,
Sure, sneer at my cousin. But when's the last time you saw aliens? His method seems to work.

Marcia Macomber said...

"Initially, I check for off-aromas. Unless it’s German wine, and then I check for Pfalz." - my favorite! There were many other fabulous zingers after this. I could hear the drum riffs after every line.

Daniel was right: The "I'll be here all week..." line sums it all up.

Anonymous said...

Erste, aber das Schweigen ist ohrenbetäubend.

I've got to quit drinking Gruner Veltliner!

Dave (yeah, that one)

Anonymous said...

Oops, I guess I just Hosed myself, no comments were showing when my auf Deutsch kicked in. Did think it most strange, glad all's well in Hoseland.

Cheers,

Dave

Dave (aka BiPolar Bear) said...

@ Kathy

Hell, if it weren't for the aliens we wouldn't have any signals here in the central valley. Probably doesn't matter, everybody runs them anyway, unless they're green that is.

Dean Tudor said...

I love the finish..

Nunquam spuemus.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Dave,
Take off the tin foil hat, my friend, that should help.

Marcia,
I'm always trying to change pace within the confines of what I do here on my stupid blog. I wanted the vague rhythm of STEVE!'s blog mixed with a sort of Marx Brothers insanity. Not sure it came out that way, but no matter, it's another notch in the blogpost.

Dean,
Itting-spay ucks-say.

Fabio (Vinos Ambiz) said...

It's true that you should wear a loud shirt when tasting Garnacha, though, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

good post, added you to my RSS reader.

PaulG said...

Señor Hose... with this explosion of pure comedic genius, you have eclipsed my previous favorite bit of buffoonery, the Cursing Mommy. This is really New Yorker quality stuff. I encourage you to submit it.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Fabio,
Yes, absolutely, preferably something with ruffles for Garnacha. For Australian Grenache, I prefer a bush jacket and no pants.

Paul,
Those are very kind words. Anyone who has ever written humor has wanted to be published in the New Yorker, the home of Thurber and Benchley and Perelman and Woody and Keillor. I am proud to say that I was frequently rejected by them back in the '70's, and wisely so. Not sure I'm any better now than I was then.

Dean Tudor said...

Ron you wrote "How I Taste"...

You taste wonderful, exuding earthy aromas with some underbrush and garrigue...but you need to shave more.

Fabio (Vinos Ambiz) said...

yeah, I know what you mean about the ruffles man but it's just not possible here in Spain. If they found out I was wearing a shirt with ruffles, even at a Garnacha tasting, I'd be drummed out with dishonour from the beginner's Introduction to Machismo Iberico course that I'm doing!
I think it should be OK if I just dont iron my loud shirt?