Drink Wine Like A Drinker, Not A Taster

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - February 02, 2011
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When you taste wine, do you taste like a professional?

Why should you? You are fortunate not to be required to do so.

I realized some time ago that when I write tasting notes, it became silly, even superfluous, to describe individual fruit nuances and actual flavors.

Can any description of fruit, alcohol, tannin, sweetness, body truly convey the experience of how the wine actually tastes?

It merely scratches the surface in actually conveying the whole wine experience. It’s tantamount to reading the notes of music and actually hearing the symphony played.

As I began my career it was important for me to hone my skills in tasting, especially while in the master sommelier program. In the exams we are required to do blind tastings with a deductive method whereby we have to identify six wines’ origin, vintage, quality level and appellation within 25 minutes.

So everywhere I went and for all the wines I tasted, I jotted down what I thought were the most important guidelines for each wine, which included levels of alcohol, tannin, acidity, types of fruit, minerality (if any), wood (if any) and anything else that could help me identify a wine correctly if I was ever blind tasted on it. This is an important skill when you are in the MS program.

Lucky for most of you, you won’t ever have to do that. Knowing how to do this may perhaps add to the keenness of your tasting ability and maybe make you appreciate more the tasting abilities of others. But in the grand scheme of your wine enjoyment, I am hard pressed to think of how it would add to it.

When I put on my “drinking and enjoying” cap, I no longer have the filter of the “professional” wine taster. I am looking for pure enjoyment. I am looking for different things in the wine now - things like balance, how it goes with the food and the company.

Is this wine dominating the table?

Does it require my complete attention?

Does it just blend in? Is it gulpable or just plain delicious?

How long will this wine take to mature to the point where I think I would like it best? Is it good to drink?

The critical part of my palate takes a back seat to the hedonistic part.

Mind you, I’m not saying the discriminating taste goes out the window. I like certain wines more than others and that is the foundation of my own palate, which can never be underestimated. And there will always be the scaffolding of how I taste wines within my own palate. But I no longer taste wine in terms of simple scaffolding.

That would be like reducing Monet down to just a color diagram, or the view of a sunset to mere words. It just can’t be done.

I mean, really, how many times can a white wine taste like citrus or a red wine taste like black fruits?

It is the entire experience that makes a wine worth drinking. Some of them are truly great where they command your attention and you know you have tasted greatness. Others can be simple yet enjoyable and be “just right” for the moment. Those are wines to cherish as well.

So go out and drink like a drinker, don’t just taste like a taster. It’s much more fun to drink.

Recommendations: 2008 Louis Michel Chablis Montee de Tonnerre Premier Cru ($40) Now here is a wine with a sense of place. It has a kinetic energy that resounds with minerality and seashells at its core, surrounded by white fruit and lemons. 2008 Willi Schaefer Estate Riesling ($17) Just plain yummy. It’s lightly sweet with a “come over and grab me” personality that makes you want to gulp it down.

Robert Viernes is a master sommelier.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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