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How My Tastings Are Done


WSET System

Part of my studies to become a Weinakademiker included the completion of the WSET Diploma, which is the top qualification offered by the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. The WSET has a well-established and, I find, quite useful system for tasting wines and spirits. This is the system that I use for all of the wines I taste at home or while travelling, as well as most of the wines that I encounter in relaxed settings, which is to say any setting in which I can take the time to write such detailed notes without becoming a completely obnoxious and boring party or dinner guest. The WSET system focuses on both the objective aspects of a wine (colour, perceived levels of tannin, acidity, alcohol, and sugar; length of the finish) and the more subjective (aromas and flavours), as well as overall quality assessment. The notes that result from this, while detailed and useful, are pretty dry. I find that to be a strength; it is up to the writer to communicate the impression of the wine in a way that isn’t dreary to read.

…More Time

So far so normal. But I also do something a bit different: I taste the wines over several consecutive days, with the largest part of my notes generally coming on the second or the third day. I don’t use any methods of preserving the wines, like a vacuum pump, nor do I decant them. I do aim for using the notes for the wine when it is showing its best side. Some wines don’t even make it to the second day in good shape – and some can go far longer than a paltry few days.

…And No Points

What I don’t do is provide scores for wines in the notes that I publish. The main reason for this is that a tasting is just a snapshot of a wine at one particular moment – even if my notes take into account the development of a wine over several days. Points, I find, tend to damn a wine indefinitely with a valuation that is most relevant only to the scorer. In this way I find them best as a guide for private purposes. It is my hope that tasting notes together with the salient information of the wine style, producer, region, etc are the more useful, not to mention interesting, way to go.