A matter of taste (notes)

At the very best, tasting notes are really only any good to the person writing them. How so? Because we all taste differently. I am not saying that two people tasting the same wine cannot both enjoy it, but their experiences will be different. On any one day one’s ability to taste may well be slightly compromised, ergo a different outcome will be the result. Terminology (I mean one’s own not the formulaic twaddle occasionally trotted out by those undertaking structured wine courses) varies significantly, person to person. One only has to read the diversity of some of the comments made here on TWS.

So for me, make tasting notes by all means, retain them for future referral, especially if one has several bottles of the same wine to return to at a later date but really, do not take much store by other’s comments. Yours will always be best.


Agree 100%. I have been banging on about this for a long time, but have tried to show restraint here as I guess it can get tedious in the long run.

Having tasted one or two wines from multiple bottles - screwcapped, from the same case, and stored identically - I now even question my notes, as I have found significantly different experiences on different occasions. It is difficult to identify why, but I suspect it is to do with something within me, rather than external conditions. I have never found a wine to be suddenly awful on any one occasion, but it can vary from good to excellent. Howeve, I certainly agree that our own experiences are by far our best guide.

It is not always possible, but before buying multiple bottles, I prefer to try a tasting sample, and then buy a single bottle to have with a meal.


I agree that taste is a very personal thing, but I do value a lot of people’s TNs on here as a guide to what I might like. And they’ve helped me discover some excellent wines.

I agree on the formulaic exam-style notes. You don’t see them much on here but CT, Vivino etc are full of robotic notes which tell you absolutely nothing.


Of course one is the best for one’s own tasting notes. However, IMO those tasters with standings in the trade are worthy of note as they do know what they are on about.


Usually with references to exotic fruits or scents that are beloved of critics but have no anchor in my world at least - and, I’d wager, most of their readers either but hey, saves being imaginative if you plagarise.

Auto-suggestion and tasting is a big thing. Years ago I spent a year working for one of the big Global brewing companies (my first real job). It wasn’t very demanding and therefore I got involved with tasting for quality control and, as I was able to taste every day got to a point where I was involved in their regular panel tastings for True-to-Type (is the beer consistent across sites). I will never forget being told that Boddingtons should tastes of grapefruit. It does when you look for it but it sure didn’t taste of much if you didn’t know!

Ditto personal frames of reference. A merchant I buy from often uses the term salty minerality. I’d never got it until doing a Zoom tasting with him earlier in the year and it makes perfect sense in context but I’d never have called it that myself.


I agree that your own notes make the best notes and remind you why you like or dislike a particular wine .
Personally when writing a note for myself the most important thing in the wine is balance and harmony of all the structural components which make the wine what it is and I’m not overly concerned with picking out every flavour compound within the wine.
However, when handed a flight of 6 wines to write structural tasting notes on in 10 minutes, I do believe there is a place for more structured tasting notes which allow you to break down that wine much quicker and asses the quality based on the individual structural components of the wine .
Whilst I agree that system isn’t full proof it does serve a purpose .


Personally, I think comments on the basic dimensions of the wine are essential. When matching with food these are vastly more important than knowing which variety of cherry the taster imagines. But by all means do add comments on the aromatics too!

Balance and harmony are important, as you say @Leah, but I’d just add that sometimes I don’t want a wine to be balanced in itself. Sometime the balance is achieved by the accompanying food, or a well-balanced wine can be ruined by strongly favoured food. And sometimes I find a wine out of kilter can be fun - though it would be tiresome all the time.

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I think we all have expressions that we would not like to share with others although they do strike an immediate chord with oneself.
Frankly, I remember Jilly Goolden on the TV years ago describing Sauvignon Blanc (which almost universally is characterised as gooseberries) claim it reminded her of cat’s piss on a garage door! Great to have that expression in your kitbag but keep it to yourself for goodness sake.


I sort of agree. It’s the same with anything subjective. We all hear music and see art differently too. We can still reach an at least vague consensus on what’s good and what isn’t, what suits our taste and what doesn’t and develop some kind of shared vocabulary within our community to be able to recommend things in a way more than “this good”.

I think with things like wine it’s very important to develop this as you’re potentially going in almost blind on something very expensive. While the words don’t often correspond to the exact flavour being talked about, it’s useful to be able to have a vague idea about what you’re buying.

I do agree about WSET vocabulary though, in part because my tasting notes (mostly to myself and more recently on here) are far less fun/interesting/personal and also less illustrative since I did the courses and I can’t seem to snap out of that.

What even is “Medium Plus” anyway?!?


All I can say to you @strawpig is that you will recover from your bout of plus-itis. It may take a while, but I have done fully (and I was perpetrator-in-chief of the approach for nearly five years…… :yum:).


My notes are rubbish…

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I think you misunderstand the modern concept of ‘her truth’ Graham!

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May I make an observation about wines notes and WSET?

Having just gone through the WSET system it is important to remember that the systematic approach to tasting (“SAT”) was designed for those entering or in the wine business. WSET wanted to create a set of criteria that would give the profession and trade a basic objective guide that would help them assess quality. the SAT is all about assessing quality. It is to give those in the trade who have to select wines for retailers and are tasting 50 or 70 wines in one go. I just don’t think WSET SAT is designed for us mere mortals who enjoy wines and treat tastings as “a shared pleasure.” SAT is so prescriptive that for consumers it simply does not work.


I think Jargon is the word you’re looking for.


I do agree with what seems to be the consensus - that formulaic TNs are not that informative and they are highly suggestible, and one person’s raciness and well-structured is another’s mouth puckeringly acidic and tannic.

And yet we do need a shared vocabulary to convey what it is we liked / disliked about a wine and are going to have to find metaphors and non-grape aromas and flavour comparisons to do this. Otherwise what are we going to talk about, and just stating that I “quite liked” wine A or B conveys even less than the over-embroidered TNs. In fact the only wines which actually taste like grapes are muscats !

Some unambiguous observations are quite helpful actually - over-oaked, quite sweet, too tannic or closed (and thus if I’ve got an unopened bottle of the same that’s a cue to put it away for a bit longer). Whilst most of us, when facing an unopened bottle, are likely to know in advance pretty much the ballpark aroma and flavour profile to expect, but there are some interesting inter-variety examples of variability - I’m thinking how albarino, SB, syrah, cab franc can all smell and taste quite differently depending on their origins - and there are times when I’d like an acidic cat-piss tasting SB and times when the more floral lemon sherbety incarnation appeals, and having some tip-offs from TNs here can only be helpful.

So I don’t mind reading TNs, so long as they are personal and honest (and brief) as they can only be the way to finish the sentence - “I quite liked / disliked this wine because…”


Totally agree about the “formulaic twaddle”. In fact I tend to take this kind of thing as a sign that the writer understands wine less than I do (which is saying a lot :smiley:)

I do, though, find the notes of someone whose taste I trust the most useful pointer as to wines I am likely to enjoy.


I agree that within a community some consensus can be agreed. And that applies to art, music and wine. But the consensus is learned through being part of the same culture, through communication and discussion - but it is still essentially subjective. It’s good in that it is based on experience, but it is still arbitrary.

In the UK the consensus in wine is I think largely created by the wine trade, backed up by WSET education, and also reinforced by critics and journalists.

As far as UK consensus is concerned, In the UK the average price paid for a bottle of wine is around £5.80. The great mass of people are not the slightest bit interested in wine other than as a refreshing alcoholic fruit drink. it is price that drives pretty much everything in wine in this country. I suspect nearly all of them have never heard of WSET, may read about the odd bottle in the Daily Mail wine column from time to time. They know broadly what Sauvignon blanc and Pinot grigio taste like, and they like Merlot and Shiraz and don’t like tannin. If they go out for a meal they will spend between £15-25 on a bottle. On a celebration the group will like Prosecco. I think it is that simple.
As for TWS community, we are but a speck of sediment within a 5000 litre barrel.


Notes? no - never. Do any of you, ever go round an art gallery, exhibition or concert & make notes? except of course professionals or those studying the subject. I’m more than happy to enjoy a bottle, and then re-visit several years later & rediscover. Notes would spoil the subjective experience for me, and turn it into some kind of objective comparison.

As wine, same with art - living close to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, I must have seen the same Henry Moore’s dozens of times in all seasons and I guarantee there are always new aspects and nuances. As I change, so does my appreciation.

On the other hand, notes by ‘noses in the know’ are invaluable in my wine purchasing decisions. Which includes comments by TWS community leading to some excellent wines.


But the “great unwashed” are not considered to be the arbiters of good taste. They are not the ones who discuss wine and dictate what is good and what should command the highest prices. If some media company wants an opinion on wine - someone to write a column or appear as an expert - that is not who they go to. If people want to learn about wine they go to so-called experts.

I’m not saying that this situation is good or bad - it is just the way it is.