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Art of the Tasting Note, Part 2

In our last post, Two Hands’ Michael Twelftree laid out the principles and procedures he follows when writing tasting notes. Obviously, and understandably, he’s a little more wrapped up in doing his notes with precision than your average enthusiast. And he suspects he’s more careful about it than some – not all, but some – of the wine writers out there. For instance, Michael says he once spotted a review of the 2007 Two Hands Ares that read like this: “The extra $30 partially goes to the cost of the world’s heaviest wine bottle, and partially to the atomic power of the alcohol. For those who have everything. Cork. 94 points.” Michael’s response?

Wow. Does this really tell me or my clients about the wine? NOT. Reviewers keep saying that you should read the notes more than look at the points, but it’s hard not to only read the points when the rest says so little.

Another note Michael encountered for the same wine fared a lot better. It read: “This wine’s elevated alcohol level (16.2%) gives it plenty of fullness on the palate, and combined with jammy fruit and super-ripe tannins makes for a slightly sweet palate impression and a creamy texture. It does offer waves of raspberry and blueberry fruit topped by hints of cinnamon and vanilla as well as savory undercurrents of grilled meat and tapenade. Drink now and over the next few years for its exuberant fruit. 91 points.”

“This is not a bad note,” Michael says, “but this guy is obviously a label drinker – he got stuck on the alcohol and this was quite clearly not tasted blind. So he spent the whole tasting note trying to deal with the high alcohol of the wine rather than focusing on the experience. But as I said, when tasting notes are good, the can be really good, to where you almost feel that you’re tasting the wine just reading about it.”

Like, say, this one, by MT himself, again for the 2007 Ares:

Inky violet. Initially brooding, dense and chocolaty, then quickly unwinds to show the full range of dark fruit tones: boysenberry, mulberry, blueberry, blackberry and cassis. A complicating note of smoked meat emerges with air, along with sexy oak spice (this was raised in 100% new French oak of fancy lineage) that adds a sweet impression but doesn’t get in the way. Huge, mouthfilling, layered and rich but also remarkably fresh and vibrant, with the dark berry flavors joined by a brighter cherry quality that adds vibrancy and thrust. A powerful suggestion of exotic spicecake develops on the finish, which shows big but thoroughly buffered tannins. Amazing shiraz that should develop for many years to come. 95+ points.

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