How-to: Write a Wine Reviewlocated here.
The text that accompanies a wine review usually hits the main tasting components of wine: color, aroma, texture, taste, and finish. Let's look at the individual components:
Color:States the color (e.g., red, purple, brick) and intensity of the color (e.g. deep, medium, light) of the wine. Often times color is not noted, especially if the color is typical for whatever type of wine (aka varietal) you are drinking.
Aroma:The most important part of the wine, aka the nose, or bouquet. Because the nose detects thousands of different scents, and the tongue only detects four tastes (sweet/sour/bitter/salt), the vast majority of text in wine reviews revolves around what aromas your nose can deduce from the wine. However, it can be very hard to put into words what it is you smell, and many rookie reviewers falter here. Describing the nose can involve many words, from fruity (cherry, strawberry, raspberry, etc) to citrusy (lemon, pineapple, etc) to everything in between (chocolate, nutty, bell peppers, etc). Use this PDF file to try and jostle your scent memory.
Texture:Often described as mouthfeel, tasters often use words like silky, raw, rough, heavy, light, watery, or creamy to describe the weight and feel of the wine. The classic example to illuminate mouthfeel is to imagine the different textures of milk as it progressively adds fat: non-fat, 2%, whole, half and half, heavy cream. As the fat increases, the texture goes from watery to silky to thick or heavy.
Taste:The taste of a wine, despite the name, is still all about the nose. Wine tasters typically aerate the wine in their mouth by swishing it around and sucking air through pursed lips to get some of the wine (in aerosol form) back into the nasal cavity. This can be hard for beginners to grasp, but truly the nose tells all and if this aeration did not happen, then the taste would only be a combination of sweet, sour, salty, or bitter -- and that would be pretty boring.
So why is the taste important if we've already covered the aroma of the wine? This is because the wine will present different flavors as it sits in your mouth, from the initial attack as it hits your tongue, to the mid-palate, to the finish (which we will cover next). Sometimes however, the wine will present a consistent front of flavor, from the nose, to the mid-palate, to the finish, and in these cases the wine review may be a short description of the aromas only, with the taste noted as "consistent" with the nose. However, if you do note different flavors as the wine mingles with your palate, note them here utilizing words from the previously mentioned aroma PDF.
Finish:A wine finish is the lingering sensation that wine leaves in your mouth after you swallow the wine. Typically, finish is described in both length and flavors. The length is the amount of time you continue to perceive flavors after you have swallowed. Length is described as long (flavor persists more than 8 seconds), medium (persists for 4-5 seconds), or short (flavors dissipate very quickly). Finish can also contain more taste adjectives (woody, cherry, earthy, etc) if the finish has evolving flavors that present themselves.
Putting it all togetherReviewers may want to simply list out the components that they tasted in each category above, and this makes for an OK wine review. However, as wine is not a scientific endeavor, I believe that merging the components above into a brief paragraph about the wine often lends itself to a wine description that has more heart and often reveals more about the wine. To write a solid review, try taking your notes on individual wine elements (color, aroma, texture, taste, finish) and string them together in a few sentences that glide from one component to the next.
And even now, we still may not have a review that really hits at the heart of the wine. If there is a special story behind how the wine was made, where you tasted it, or why this wine is special in any way, shape, or form, it can be interesting information to place in the review. Would the wine pair well with a certain dish? Does the wine need more time to age? Is the 1996 a better deal than the 1997? These tidbits of information can make the difference between an acceptable review and a great review.
On the other hand, especially for simple wines, it can be impossible to write a solid review: only one or two non-distinct aromas may be present (i.e., "tropical"), the taste may not present any new flavors, and the finish may be absent. In cases like these, the reviewer can be left struggling for words. Write what you taste, and then walk away -- save the brain-wracking for a bottle that deserves it.
Ready to try your hand at a review? Click on the reviews tab and search for the wine you're interested in. You'll be able to assign a score (how to assign a score) and write as much (or as little) commentary as you'd like.
Need more information?The links below all offer advice on how to write a review:
- A fantastic PDF on how to take tasting notes like a pro: http://www.delongwine.com/guided-tasting...
The scoring sheet from above without any example markings: http://www.delongwine.com/tasting-form-d...
- Gary Vaynerchuk describes how to taste a wine in his video blog: http://tv.winelibrary.com/2006/05/05/epi...
- Alder Yarrow, wine blogger extraordinaire, elaborates on how he reviews wines: http://www.vinography.com/archives/2005/...
- Need some serious hand-holding? This Wine Spectator PDF is a complete step-by-step walkthrough on how to taste a Pinot Grigio vs. a Chardonnay -- and then, a Pinot Noir vs. a Cabernet: http://www.winespectatorschool.com/wines...
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