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How do you keep your tasting notes?


#1

For those of you who keep your tasting notes, how do you take them and what do you do with them all?

I have been making a conscious effort to describe or discuss all the wines I drink in one way or another, but I have yet to go so far as to record my notes with any regularity. I enjoy looking back on some of my notes when I have kept them, and in some cases (pun?) they have been incredibly useful for later purchase, for instance on the back of the Society’s 2015 Germany tasting.

I would really value getting sight of what others do in order to get a better idea of what could work for me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d benefit.

The sorts of questions that come to mind…

  • Why do you take notes? (For work or qualification? To inform future purchases? Just for the enjoyment? etc.)

  • When or how often do you write notes? (Every wine? Only the nice stuff? Organised tastings? etc.)

  • What medium do you use? (Database/Website? Notebook? Index cards? Anything and everything…)

  • How often do you refer to past notes,? How do you find what you’re looking for?

  • Have you tried keeping notes in a way that didn’t work for you??

Any thoughts at all would help… thanks!


#2

Why: certainly to inform future purchases, to identify styles/producers to look for, as well as specific wines. Probably also to concentrate the mind.
When: For wines drunk at home: they go in the spreadsheet when bought; comments added each week for those consumed. I keep the notes I take at tastings, but I don’t transfer them to the same (excel) database. Not wines drunk in restaurants, although I will keep a separate note if I want to find them again.
I refer to past notes when I go back to the same producer/retailer.
They are rows in a spreadsheet, by country, region, colour, grape or sub-region, depending on how each country classifies, name/producer, vintage, where and when bought, so I can sort by any of these.
The last field of the spreadsheet is an approximate when to drink and then, after drinking, a short comment. Not as long as a proper tasting note, but enough to remind me what I thought.


Women really do have the best palates
#3

I take notes pretty much all the time. The main exceptions are walk-around tastings, where I usually just scribble a score on the list, and when I drink “repeat” bottles at home.

Started doing it when working towards WSET exam, to help me focus on the wines. Now mainly because I have such a lousy memory.

Notes go into a text file on my phone. Often I take label pictures too for details.

They finish up in a database of my own design - I used to work as a programmer - using a mainly automated process.

BTW I find the process of copying details from the label a good learning experience. It can be tedious, but forces you to read it properly and you get a much better understanding than you would with prgrams like Cellar Tracker.


#4

I tried and tried to keep notes. I failed.

That was particularly bad since I was trying to share thoughts on wines from the numerous trade tastings I was attending.

Then I realised that there was no point collecting lots of notes on wines that didn’t mean anything to me. If I didn’t love (or hate) them, I was unlikely to want to write about them or buy them. I was not in the business of creating ‘reports’, only sharing stories and building a better culture of wine.

Even when I did, the note was only relevant while the wine had not changed (through ageing), was still in stock, was still available from the retailers I was aware of, and hadn’t been surpassed by a more recent example that was even better.

In that case, I saw no need for long-term storage of notes. My thoughts were disposable and had a short shelf-life.

To keep the notes that mattered, I used Evernote on my mobile mainly, or the paper notes at a tasting. The paper notes saved me from having to jot down details, but Evernote was great because it would link to my diary for a context of the notes, would include the text I typed, could include photos (in case I needed to look up details or share an image with a post), and was searchable if required.

I tried many things, but ultimately rely on memory (as in: “this wine was memorable enough for it to have registered”) and a searchable digital notebook (to flesh out the missing details).

:slight_smile:


#5

Originally I kept fairly detailed notes in a card index. It was sorted by vintage (though that doesn’t work so well for NV champagnes!) and also served to catalogue my wines in cellar. Card indexes are pretty poor, though, if you want to order them by some other criterion other than the one they were designed on. That, and my increasing realisation that however analytical your notes, they mean little if you do not retain the impression of the wine. Exceptions being things like acidity, tannin, whether it’s showing oxidised notes etc.

So I looked at moving to a digital system. I think spreadsheets could work pretty well, but decided to go the whole way and design a relational database in Access. It worked fine (after some design delay), though I have to admit I no longer regularly record any notes unless they are for telling others about the wine. I increasingly agree with the view @robert_mcintosh just expressed, i.e. if it was memorable enough to have registered, then that’s good enough for me. My memory for wines is far from infallible, but it’s not bad enough to worry about. My memory for people’s names, though - that’s another matter.


#6

We’re old fashioned and write ours in a notepad with a quill.
Ok, the quill bit is not true, but we write them down by hand. No spreadsheets here, I’m afraid. Same info usually: name of wine, grapes, vintage, producer, area/country, then nose, palate, summary and a little emoticon to denote the ‘bleh, meh, yeah or last supper’ conclusion. We also add a short detail on where we are, weather and mood. It’s been fun reading the old ones, not only because of the memories they evoke, but because we can see our palate changing and nuances coming in with time. I don’t take notes on tasting events, unless something really stood out, but we keep notes that were given in the specific event. Great fun! :grinning:


#7

With difficulty is the answer…I was probably more in the @robert_mcintosh regime for a while. People even gave me nice books to write them in and I failed miserably.

I’ve started using Cellartracker since I loaded my cellar data on there, and so far that’s been better, not quite sure why…maybe it’s because I can keep a dynamic stock record at the same time. Can also see other notes on the same wine, which tend to be of variable usefulness. Picking up on @SteveSlatcher, it’s amazing how many people don’t seem to read the labels and write about a wine without knowing some basics like the predominant grape variety.

I tend to do it mainly for the better wine, partly to see how they evolve over time. I take notes for some wines at tastings but not all. Tends to be the ones I like, or actively dislike mainly.


#8

I only made notes on wines I entered onto an app which basically meant en primeur purchases or other fine wines. Sadly the app no longer works as it hasn’t been updated to work on newer IOSs. So have lost all that data☹️ I need another solution which, reading various comments on this community, probably means Cellartracker? Apart from that I rely on my memory of wines I have tasted which is crazy I know. Mr @jaykay is amazed at how my memory, usually a bit rubbish, seems very sharp when it comes to wine, beer and spirits!


#9

I take notes all the time, but have only been doing so for the last 14 or 15 years, which is less than half of my wine drinking life. A shame, because it means that wines I tasted before 2003 are largely forgotten. I take notes in a Moleskine notebook, because tapping on a phone isn’t a great look at a dinner table. I then transfer them to my CellarTracker notes page:

However, I pretty much only transfer the notes on the good wines. I can’t be bothered with wines that leave me indifferent. I occasionally comment on the bad ones, especially if they were supposed to be good.

I also photograph some of the labels, and they’re automatically uploaded to my Google photos account. I have a wine diary, which I put together once a year - it’s 40 pages for each year, going back to about 2003-04, and I use that to comment on the best and/or most interesting wines I had. The diary has photos, comments, context, place, and tasting notes, and it’s done digitally, and then printed. It’s a personal way of talking about wine that also captures the story and the context and the place and the people.


#10

I tried to keep notes, I do take notes at any sit-down tastings we have here as it helps understand preferences etc, I usually try and keep a mental note of any odd grapes I come across that I enjoyed - can then branch off and look at the same grape from different producers/regions. I usually simply star any wine from the list of wines that I would enjoy again - eg its got the ‘wow’ factor, irrespective of certain attributes, although I might note down what makes the wine different. Example might be a starred wine and a quick note of ‘black fruits with smoke’.

Luckily I seem to remember most wines I have drunk, apparently memories are stronger if there is a smell associated to them. The wines I have forgotten about wouldn’t have made enough impression to stick and for me to remember it.

The wines I can currently remember as ones I have enjoyed are (without consulting any notes)

1990 Hermitage, Jaboulet, La Chappelle
Hugel Schoelhammer Riesling
Niepoort Charme
Domaine Maume Gevrey Chambertin
Rijk’s Cellar reserve Pinotage
1921 Domaine Huet (still fresh)
Delas Gringnan-les-adhemar
Domaine Jones Fitou
Thymiopoulos Naoussa
Chateau Musar


#11

It seems that I now leave my notes in the Taxi on the way home. Now all my notes from last nights tasting are lost.:disappointed_relieved:


#12

Oh no! No chance they could be found and returned?

I did that once too - notes from an event I was invited to, but I think I left them behind in the restaurant so not only did I not keep them, but they might have thought I didn’t care! Oops!


#13

Usually keep in close proximity to the bottles, then shred once no longer needed. There is a danger perhaps in keeping notes as vintages vary, and the wine you enthuse about in one year is a disaster the next.
Time is precious.


#14

Luckily, I’ll be able to get a virgin copy of the tasting notes from the organiser as it’s our wine group. Shame that it was such a good tasting with very rare and unrepeatable wines, I would like to see what I thought at the time, now I just have my hazy memories.


#15

I keep very brief notes in Vivino, an app I use for my reference rather than for any community based scoring. Seems to work ok for me but as mentioned earlier tapping on a phone at dinner is a no-no so sone has to be done retrospectively and very briefly

Keep considering CellarTracker; really should look into it more but my cellar stock is already in a useful spreadsheet


#16

Excel spreadsheet for me. I keep a sheet with all my stocks, with columns for vintage, price paid, where I bought it, country, region and drink by date, then it’s a simple cut and paste to a sheet for wines drunk, where I have columns for notes and a score.

I find it useful to look up similar wines when I’m shopping for more.


#17

I use CellarTracker for notes and inventory. I don’t always make a note especially if it is a one off bottle but it is an excellent way to know where wines are kept. The only thing is that you have to commit to keep the inventory up to date - nothing worse than having to use the “Missing - presumed drunk” tag on a bottle you were looking forward to. Also allows filtering and searching by variety, region etc.


#18

Back on the WS website earlier than expected, as I managed to join the Proms booking queue at position 792 (usually 4000-6000)!:smile:

Re wine notes, being of a certain age, I’ve used my own paper-based system for decades. I tried to convert to an Access database about 10 years ago, but gave up in frustration. With a cellar of about 500 bottles, it’s as much about keeping track of where the wines are, as about noting my assessment of them. So, I have two paper records, one with details of each purchase (date of acquisition, type, winemaker, vintage, etc) and assessments of each consumption of the wine. Each bottle has a numbered sticker referring back to the relevant record and the best drinking date. The other file comprises two parts, a current indication of where the various wines are, and an annual inventory to identify gaps, etc.

It’s all very detailed and takes quite a lot of time, but that’s part of the pleasure of keeping wine - like handling real books rather than digital versions (though I read those too!). I’m pretty meticulous - probably an indication of some slight mental disorder (but, then, “all the world…”)! Obviously the assessments inform future purchases and subsequent food pairings. Family members also seem to find it useful when they visit, to identify and locate suitable wines.

It’s easy to get lost in this sort of thing, though, and to go on replacing wines. When I place a large order now, especially of EP wines, and spend a morning or afternoon cataloguing them, my wife asks when I expect to drink them all - will I have enough years left?! Well, if I don’t, no doubt the family will relish divvying up the spoils!


#19

Cellar tracker for me. It’s easy to use, not too time consuming, and the data can be arranged in lots of useful ways: by vintage/appellation/grape/drink date etc. I do live in fear that one day the owners will decide to hold my data to ransome and I’ll have to pay hugely inflated fees to find out what I have. But, until that day comes…


#20

I think you can regularly archive in csv format. That should alleviate some of the fear.