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*|
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
*Thanks to Samantha for the Photo