One good turn of the page deserves another: A wine tasting notebook for your wine buying guidebook

steve de long company wine tasting notebook
A great bottle of wine deserves a great tasting note.

Think of that today as the Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2007 comes out. It's that time of year when wine lovers will be given heaps of wine recommendations. My last post is an example -- Phaneuf's Quebec wine consumer guide that just appeared on Montreal shelves. No doubt that it is the ultimate stocking stuffer for the Québécois wino you love.

But the year-end roundups, ratings and rankings make for rather obvious, somewhat clichéed gifts. Leave them for the unfashionable to give. If I was getting myself a little gift during the upcoming holiday season, it would be the Wine Tasting Notebook, pictured above, from Steve De Long of De Long Wine Info.

This Wine Tasting Notebook, which is newly available on Steve's site (click through via the linked image above, or check my Blogroll for De Long Wine Moment), is comprised of a 60-page notebook and a fold-out spill-proof quick reference guide to wine tasting terms that flips over to reveal a step-by-step how-to instruction on taking tasting notes.

My first official wine tasting note -- way back in the day when this blog was still a baby -- was with Steve's guidance. But what can I say? You don't need to be a beginner to benefit from his clear and complete wine notes package. I love the design, the useful cheat sheets and the conciseness of his guidelines. I used them then and I use them now, with my Vistorta review from a few days ago being wine note #1 in the book he sent me.

In fact, forget beginners. This notebook arrived to save me just at the time when I was floundering amid dead soldiers (empty wine bottles are only a decorative touch until they outnumber the volumes on your bookshelf). I remember looking deep into the abyss of my cork drawer, wondering why I had all these corks and no notes to immortalize the wine they once stoppered. I was becoming a virtual black hole for wine. Taking tasting notes is the healthy way out, or at least that's the way I see it.

But most importantly, with Steve's terminology and how-to guides, your note taking won't flounder before your wine glass while your dinner sits there getting cold. He presents a painless solution. The pre-printed note pages are laid out to allow you to quickly circle, fill in the blanks and jot down your most salient thoughts. Most people don't realize that you don't need to write a book for these things (unless you are lucky enough to come across one of those wines that totally illuminate you, and in turn, your pen as it fills the entire page).


Steve was kind enough to comp me a "Your Brain on Wine" T-shirt that was exactly my colour. It was a nice shade that Steve calls pencil shavings, which is wine tasting lingo for copper-grey.

My first time wearing it was at work. I had a dress shirt with check print over top of it. I remember I was meeting with the person who was previously my boss's boss. Like many of the people I work with, my ex-boss's boss knew about my wineblog after the local newspaper printed my full name and a URL.

It's not exactly fame though. To tell you the truth, I don't think anyone in the office actually follows my posts at all. They tend to try and track my hobby in another way. They study my clothes for traces of wine stains. Yes, this is the civilized society we live in. I believe it's most precisely called Schadenfreude.

So anyway I wasn't surprised when my ex-boss's boss paid me a back-handed compliment about my shirt as we exited the meeting room, saying that it suited me very much "...and you don't even see any marks from the wine..." [laughter].

At which point I did a Clark-Kent-in-a-phone-booth and graciously, yet somewhat indignantly, stuck out my unbuttoned chest to reveal my "Brain on Wine" T-shirt. And by way of correction, I replied: "Look -- the mark of wine is always there," gesturing with hand over heart. I think anyone watching from a distance would've wanted to have me committed. On second thought, those in my immediate midst too.

No matter. Problem solved. I don't think my coworkers will be searching me for wine stains anymore. Thanks to Steve.


Joe said...

love the shirt. Yeah, I get all the co-workers who know about the blog, but never read it...I am going to make up my own score sheet one of those days, but perhaps I can ask Santa to bring me one of those you recommend...

Marcus said...

We are our own support group. Neglected bloggers and admonished winos R us.

What makes a good tasting note form? That's a question I am going to take further -- I have a preference that goes beyond layout and conciseness and says something about food.

But by making your own "score sheet" I guess you mean a form with weighted criteria -- the De Long Wine Notebook is not built to score wines, which is the way I prefer it anyway.

Bill is a big opponent of scoring and I find that it crosses the line. For the Valpos and the Cab Francs... you were assigning values as you wrote your notes? Or did you do it after?

Steve said...

Hi Marcus,

Thank you so much for the great write up! I'll try to include a stomach icon in future versions!



Joe said...

I never scored the Valpos, it was Bill's tasting, but I did score the Cab Francs as we drank them. I understand Bill's opposition to scoring but he does score - it is a binary system - this is recommended, this isn't - it's still scoring. Any numeric can be used and misused - I am not to worried about my scores being used or misused...

Marcus said...

The binary scoring system... a compelling argument, Joe. I hadn't heard that before and you could make a good point to Bill on that. But isn't there still something about quantifying descriptive factors that's a bit unnatural (maybe that's why I have a hard time counting the seconds of length on a wine's finish). Come to think of it, my wine reports are binary: Do I like the wine? Yes or no. An attempt at why, backed up by as factual of a description as I can get. Scoring doesn't fit in there for me -- but that's with all due respect of course. I read scores all the time, and I like how you do your reviews a lot.

Glad you are open to suggestions Steve. You do stars I think though you've changed that for your wine notebook. I'm probably more trouble than I'm worth if you're taking feedback. I've come to realize that my notes come more from "drinking" wine rather than "tasting" wine. So kitchen smells, social situations -- actually that's overstated since I'm an incompatible loner -- and food accompaniments, get all mixed up in there when I take my notes. The night I haven't started a small kitchen fire are the nights I know I'm got winetasting-note gold on my hands.

Joe said...

The scores are for my amusement, really...20pt systems are rarely used in the "new world" ...