In a recent Vinography post entitled "Eric Asimov and the Tyranny of the Tasting Note in American Wine Culture", author Alder Yarrow summarized Eric Asimov's position on (against) wine tasting notes presented at the fifth annual Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in February 2009.
Alder quoted Eric:
"Tasting notes. Millions of them. To the point that some critics and writers seem to do only one thing: generate more tasting notes. Which has led to a wine loving public that unduly focuses on two things: numeric scores and increasingly specific strings of adjectives that aim to describe every last hint of flavor and aroma in the glass. Describing wine with with such adjectives, Eric suggested, is the equivalent of describing a concert using decibels and frequencies.
This almost clinical approach to wine criticism, according to Eric, is killing our budding wine culture. The general public sees these chains of amazing and obscure descriptors for wine and they feel like if they aren't able to either identify with them or generate their own, that somehow they don't and can't understand wine."
A long, very very unusually long thread of comments erupted following that post - arguments pro and against raged and endured like a February rain in the Bay Area. Even I got sucked in.
I was finally awakened by a puzzle that a friend sent me, no doubt inspired by watching Kami no Shizuku, once and for all demonstrating the essential nature of the tasting note:
Tasting note puzzle
Tonight I'm drinking an old friend, wine that has lost its drive but is still of character. The tannins have become more aggressive as the fruit has fallen away, a regional wine of a grand woman. The vintage was plentiful but the of great quality in the years of the nine. A wine that is a bit like an attractive elderly secretary reaching retirement, still elegant and classy.
What am I?
Regional wine of a grand woman: Bourgogne from the Grand woman Lalou Bize Leroy. 1999 was a vintage with high yield and good quality (not very common). Year of the 9's of course! Its the basic wine from Leroy so its not expected to last. Still 8/9 years for a bourgogne is not bad. By almost most standards, a typical Bourgogne is made for drinking well before 10 years, even from a great vintage. There are always exceptions, declassified village or 1er cru, etc. But almost all AC Bourgogne sites are greatly inferior, cooler with poor drainage, more disease due to cooler temperatures and higher humidity; usually more fertile as well. The wine still has fruit but seemed to lose a bit since the last tasting about two years ago. Structure/flavor balance evolves over time. As the intensity of flavor drops, the structure asserts itself. In this case, the tannins are starting to dominate the wine. Still, this wine shows its pedigree, easily the best regional Bourgogne to date.
Take that, Eric Azimov!
Respectfully yours, Iron Chevsky.