February 3, 2009

Lab Quiz

Which is the more useful tasting note?

A) Cigar box, wild cherry and plum confiture with Near East spice notes and crushed white flower

B) 92+

C) Farmed bio-dynamically with low-yields from ungrafted vines; whole cluster fermentation with wild yeasts; aged in French oak barrels (25% new)

It makes sense that a "tasting note" would be little more than a flavor profile. But a list of (subjective) descriptors is only so useful, more of a parlor trick than anything.

And a score is just shorthand, a number as (thin) metaphor.

Which leaves C. Anybody who works at the Lab will tell you that's the right answer.

Of course, you might argue that C tells us nothing at all about the taste of the wine. And yet I would be inclined to buy the wine described in C; whereas, A and B stimulate little interest at all. For tea leaves, I like having information about the approach to viticulture and oenology. I've learned over time that a winemaker who is growing without pesticides, restricting yields and using native yeasts is likely to produce a wine that I'm very likely to enjoy no matter what it tastes like.

I suppose this says something about my faith in good intentions.


Unknown said...

Nicely written post. And yeah, I would be more likely to buy C based on that information.

In regards to tasting notes, I find a mix of pure information (a la C) and some flavor descriptors - entirely subjective of course - generally helpful.

And of course a pretty label.

Director, Lab Outreach said...


And with a cute furry animal on it!

We're in the midst of a deep, nay soul-searching, (re)evaluation of our approach to TNs at the Lab. I'm finding that once you get past the orchard fruits and sea spray, it quickly becomes a complex issue. I plan to do an enormous amount of study before ultimately landing pretty close to what you just said.

I will eventually get my act together and get up to SF. Ungrafted Riesling in hand.

dhonig said...

I'm suffering from a bit of congnative dissonance between this post and the tasting note immediately below.

Director, Lab Outreach said...

I think you mean to suggest that I'm the one that's suffering. And you are right. But the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Which I'm happy to do.