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On Tasting
Driven to Drink - A Reflection by Frank Devine
Friday, 25th June, 2010  - David Farmer

Over the years I have moved to the view that tasting notes are not particularly helpful. How can you describe a wine in a way that imparts helpful information to a potential purchaser? To partly overcome this problem most wine writers include a score with the description. Unfortunately in our view and often argued here, scoring has become so corrupted that great wines score marginally above average wines.

That is why we seldom write tasting notes on Glug and seldom give a score. What you as a buyer should do is follow the advice of those you have come to respect. Thus you will either think Glug offers good advice, and good wines for the price, or you do not. I'll return to this theme another day. You may though be interested in the views a fine journalist who was very familiar with wine although was not a wine professional.

The quotes are from 'Driven to Drink'; Frank Devine, The Australian Magazine, March 1st-2nd 1997.

The article begins with Devine's bafflement that expensive or cheap wines are described in the same manner and he quotes five wine descriptions from a catalogue. The article begins with:

"It is not enough for writers about wine to tell me to look out for strong lime aromas and citrus flavours, culminating in a crisp acid finish, or a nose that is limey with a touch of honeysuckle."

He continues:

"My scepticism about the usefulness of wine criticism as a consumer's guide was just as strong when I studied a catalogue in which all the commentaries were attributed by name to particular wine critics. So which is out of kilter-the pricing or the prose? In my opinion, both, with the latter contributing significantly to the former.

And:

"It is not open to wine critics to use the comparative antiquity of their trade as an excuse for avoiding exploration and innovation in the use of language. They have been obtusely unresponsive to the phenomenon-now a couple of generations old-of wine-bibbing by the common man (and sheila). And slovenliness in self-expression has become endemic among them.

Even the solitary departure from orthodoxy noted above smacks of it. [he refers here to a tasting note I have not quoted] "Extremely powerful, occasionally idiosyncratic" means what? What happens when one encounters this power? Does one flee, shout for help, gag or go weak at the knees? In what way is the wine idiosyncratic? How does it confound expectations?

Wine critics rely heavily on metaphor but, in the hands of the inventively literate, this can be as much an inspiration as a restriction. By failing to develop any exemplary stylists, serious wine writers have left themselves open to easy parody by bluffers. Worse still, I often cannot tell who is bluffing and who is serious when critics profess to find the same attributes in $50 treasures and $7 specials. It is self-denigration on their part to say $7 bottle may be a better buy. What drama critic would recommend a lousy play because the tickets are cheap?" [here he refers to being unable to establish an order of pricing from reading wine descriptions or tasting notes]

I will return to this topic another time but at least you now know why we seldom do tasting notes and with the compression of point scores into such a narrow band they also are no longer much help in deciding what are the better wines.

The conclusion is not simple for the wine buyer but I finish by repeating what I said at the start. Trade with people whose views you think are close to yours as demonstrated by what you get in the glass for what you paid.

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ON TASTING ARCHIVE 2014
Tastings Wine Scores and Shapley Values

Thursday, 27th March, 2014

Views on Tasting with Penfolds Notes for the Record

Thursday, 27th February, 2014

ON TASTING ARCHIVE 2013
Broken Glasses, Tasting Cups, Chinese Misadventures and Tailgating

Thursday, 8th August, 2013

A Wine for Richard

Monday, 5th August, 2013

Morrisons - Never Fail Method for Buying Wine

Tuesday, 9th July, 2013

Writing Tasting Notes about Great Wine

Wednesday, 2nd May, 2013

Is a Tasting Note Helpful when Shopping?

Wednesday, 24th April, 2013

Do Tasting Notes Have any Value?

Friday, 22nd March, 2013

The Five Secrets of Stylish Women Applied to Drinking Wine

Tuesday, 12th February, 2013

ON TASTING ARCHIVE 2011
Steps in Becoming a Wine Snob

Saturday, 10th December, 2011

A Morning at the Mount Barker WA Wine Show

Sunday, 20th November, 2011

Natural Flavours from Wine and Beer Yeasts

Friday, 26th August, 2011

Status in St Emilion Raises Issues

Sunday, 24th July, 2011

What Should You Pay for Great Wine?

Sunday, 15th May, 2011

ON TASTING ARCHIVE 2009
The Power of Gold

Wednesday, 25th November, 2009

First Write the Review then Taste the Wine

Wednesday, 25th November, 2009

The Artisans of the Barossa 12th September
Part 2 of the Barossa Tastings

Friday, 30th October, 2009

The Whites do go Better With Fish

Friday, 30th October, 2009

A Parker Tasting Should Make Us Pause

Tuesday, 13th October, 2009

Why You Drink Champagne by the Sea

Thursday, 8th October, 2009

Tasting at Three Barossa Wine Shows
Part 1 - The Small Winemakers Show

Sunday, 4th October, 2009

It's In The Bubbles, Stupid

Friday, 2nd October, 2009

How Good is Your Palate?

Monday, 21st September, 2009

Another Know All Wine Wanker

Monday, 21st September, 2009

Further Thoughts on the Australian Wine Show System

Thursday, 3rd September, 2009

Wine Advice from Craigslist

Thursday, 3rd September, 2009

Comparing Wine Types and Dog Breeds

Saturday, 1st August, 2009

Electronic Experts Give Wine Advice

Monday, 15th June, 2009

In Search of a Holy Grail

Monday, 5th May, 2009

The Gimblett Gravels Travelling Road Show Surprises London

Monday, 20th April, 2009

The Beauty of the Five Point Judging System

Thursday, 26th March, 2009

Ideas for a New Wine Judging Scale

Thursday, 12th March, 2009

The First Growth Gimbletts

Monday, 26th January, 2009

ON TASTING ARCHIVE 2008
The Story of One Lonely Bottle

Friday, 26th December, 2008

The Future of Capital City Wine Shows

Friday, 5th December, 2008

The More You Spend the Better the Taste

Friday, 2nd May, 2008

The Key to Tasting Wines

Friday, 11th April, 2008

Buying Wines That Have a Sense of Place

Friday, 11th April, 2008

What Are We to Make Of Wine Tasting Notes

Monday, 4th February, 2007

ON TASTING ARCHIVE 2007
Study of the Label Alters Our Tastes

Sunday, 9th December, 2007

One in Five Cannot Smell Alpha-ylangene

Monday, 24th September, 2007

Charles Must Love It

Friday, 24th August, 2007

Liking Rough Red

Thursday, 28th June, 2007

The Ultimate Masked Bottle

Firday, 24th May, 2007

Create the Atmosphere for the Tasting Result You Want

Monday, 19th March, 2007

Confessions of Wine Deceit, Other Deceptions and Fooling Yourself

Monday, 29th January, 2007

ON TASTING ARCHIVE 2006
Two Sides of the Wine Coin

Sunday, 12th November, 2006

Wine Labels, Ranking, Ratings, Experts and Wine Prices

Friday, 27th October, 2006

A Story About Verdelho

Wednesday, 4th October, 2006

The Magnetic Appeal of Wine

Sunday, 24th September, 2006

Geology Cannot be Found In Wine

Thursday, 18th September, 2006

More on the Impact of Scoring Wines Out of 100

Thursday, 14th September, 2006

How a Three Star Wine Became a 90 Point Wine

Saturday, 9th September, 2006

High Alcohol - The Debate Rolls On

Tuesday, 5th September, 2006

So You Suffer from Anosmia

Monday, 7th August, 2006

Canít Tell Your Brett from Oak Flavours

Tuesday, 18th July, 2006

Terroir - Can It Possible Shine Through the Background Noise

Tuesday, 4th July, 2006

A Little Spat Over Chateau Pavie

Thursday, 15th June, 2006

After All This Time - Now They Tell Us

Tuesday, 13th June, 2006

Winemaking and the French Touch

Friday, 9th June, 2006

The Judgement of Paris Part II

Monday, 29th May, 2006

Why Do Chardonnays Seldom Win Trophies?

Friday, 5th May, 2006

The Other French Paradox

Tuesday, 2nd May, 2006

Show Me the Chardonnay Tasting

Sunday, 30th April, 2006

Judging Wine and the View of the American 'Wine Spectator'

Thursday, 6th April, 2006

The World Versus Robert M. Parker, Part Three

Saturday, 18th March, 2006

Halliday v Parker Continues to Attract International Attention

Thursday, 5th January, 2005

ON TASTING ARCHIVE 2005
"Thank You Mr. Evans and Sorry Mr. Parker"

Thursday, 8th December, 2005

The Differences of Opinion Continue: Mount Mary Quintets vs. Robert M. Parker Jr. Part 2

Monday, 5th December, 2005

Sharp Differences of Opinion Over Mount Mary

Monday, 14th November, 2005

The Views of the Economists With a Sense of Humour

Friday, 14th October, 2005

Wine Quality: Does Terroir Matter?

Friday, 14th October, 2005

Thoughts on Wine Judging

Thursday, 13th October, 2005

What You See Affects What You Smell and Taste

Tuesday, 13th September, 2005

The New Taste of Wine

Friday, 2nd September, 2005

Consumers Disagree with Wine Experts

Saturday, 27th August, 2005

Drinking From Special Wine Glasses

Thursday, 4th August, 2005

Now, This Wine Drinks Well, Night After Night

Monday, 18th April, 2005

Corks, Stelvin Caps and Oxygen

Wednesday, 6th April 2005

A Peep Behind the Wine Show Door

Thursday, 17 March 2005

ON TASTING ARCHIVE 2004
Going To Your Second Wine Tasting

Saturday, 11th December, 2004

What You Bring to Your First Wine Tasting

Saturday, 4th December, 2004

What Do Show Medals Mean - Part 2

Tuesday, 7th December, 2004

What Do Show Medals Mean - Part 1

Friday, 3rd September, 2004



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