The Limits of Tasting Notes

At Vinisud, I had the pleasure of introducing an alternative wine tasting for the Outsiders.

The Alternative Tasting

Basically, we just did a fun wine tasting where we encouraged people to describe our wines with images that Louise Hurren had picked out for our tasting booklet.  Forcing people to think about a wine with images instead of words gets them to think outside the box instead of falling back on the oft repeated tasting note vocab like rich, balanced, and a laundry list of fruit.

Furthermore, it empowers novice drinkers to review wines without worrying that they’re using the wrong word.  The experts can make us feel inadequate about language sometimes, but they pretty much have no dominion in the land of photo reviews.

Why was this tasting on the Pavillion 2.0 space?

This tasting was held at the Internet space of Vinisud and there’s a good reason for that!  The reason for the prominence of the tasting note is largely grounded in the limitations of print media.  Limited space means we talk in pure descriptors without any conjugation.  But the Internet doesn’t pose the same challenge.  We can have infinite words and infinite photos in full color.  And heck we can even use moving pictures, music, and other media that were previously impossible to include in printed wine journalism.  The Internet provides us with a path to escape the tyranny of the tasting note!

So I did a little presentation on this topic to get everybody thinking outside the box before we got to drinking outside the box:

All the slides are available on slideshare with relevant links to related articles in the penultimate slide.

Results

I’d say everybody had a blast.  Including a lot of wine journalists (showing once again that even they can be fed up with tasting note format).  I originally wanted to do a tasting with music and video and all sorts of crazy stuff.  Thankfully, our group’s organizer Louise had the good sense to rein it in and focus on photos.

We had less than an hour to run the event so it was good to keep it simple and focused.  We got insanely good feedback about the event and it has already spawned several requests for similarly styled “alternative tastings”.  We also got several good ideas from our tasters who offered up ways to evolve the program and make it even more interesting.  Doing physical touchy feely tastings, doing musical tastings, tasting in darkness, drawings instead of photos, and so on.

In terms of tasting notes, I think we all received a wide range of notes.  I got everything from Lego man to Dutch masters.  I got several of the He/She picture that makes me wonder if I shouldn’t change my look.  Some of the outsiders noted that certain age groups tended to pick certain pictures (the more daring ones) more frequently than other demographics.  I’m sure we’ll compile more on this at our next meeting.

Everybody had fun tasting and I think this sort of event gets people to think and talk about wine in a new and stimulating way without feeling overly stuffy or pretentious.  A success!

How to find us

Domaine O’Vineyards is just a few kilometres north of Carcassonne. GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387

Domaine O’Vineyards
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910

  1. Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou until the D118 (the last straight road) and the Dyneff gas station on the roundabout.
  2. Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
  3. Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which goes up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire.
  4. At the last juction, bear left at the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
  5. After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.