SIDE PIECE: Tasting Notes or An Inevitable Spew of Bullshit

Tasting wine is hard.


Those of us with high anxiety need not apply. Why I choose career paths that involve such microscopic observation of my person i.e. opera, wine, and/or my attempts to write, I’ll never figure out. You sit there, nose in glass, taking in all available aromatic oxygen, grasping for both bench mark notes and something to make you sound innovative and fancy.

For example: “I’m getting hints of blackberry jam smeared on a piece of 79 year old cedar cut by a handheld artisanal saw, sprinkled with wild mushrooms and the tears of a broke millennial. Hints of toasty vanilla provoke childhood memories of Swedish fish, digging mud pits, my EasyBake Oven, and Pogs.”  89 Points. 2011 Some Hot-Ass Climate Cabernet Sauvignon, New World, Earth.

The scenario going through my mind every time I’m tasting is the sorting scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. All you nerds know what I’m talking about. For your pleasure, I have adapted this scene for the Wizarding World of Wine.

McGonagall: Wine plebian, taste and describe these wines. Places Tasting Hat on wine plebian’s head.

Tasting Hat: Mmmm difficult very difficult…plenty of courage…I see… not a bad mind mind either. Talent and a thirst to prove yourself. But where to put you?

Wine Plebian: Not Pinot Noir…not graphite shavings…Not black fruit…NOT MEDIUM MINUS…

Tasting Hat: Not Pinot eh? You could be great you know. It’s all here in your head and the tasting grid will help you on the way to greatness, there’s no doubt about that! No? Well if you’re sure, better be…GRYFFINDOR…I mean CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE!!

“Not bacon fat, not crushed violets, not lavender…”

I will start yelling HP house names instead of wine calls just to shake things up. But seriously, when you are tasting in front of someone who knows (or at least pretends to know) what the hell they’re talking about, making an intelligent observation with which they agree feels like Harry being sorted into Gryffindor. HOT DAMN I GOT IT!

I guess in this scenario all wine experts are the tasting hats? I don’t know. I’ve had too much coffee today.


In all seriousness, the Court of Master Sommeliers’ tasting grid actually guides you in the right direction, but nonetheless, it cannot guarantee protection against douchebags gone rogue. When it’s all said and done, though, there’s no better high than getting it “right”.




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