Wine Tasting Notes: As far as I can tell, there are three main schools of criticism in the wine world. There's the time-honored French approach— call it the Sex-With-a-Bottle school—which uses bedroom images like "robe," "legs," "kisses," "embraces" and "femininity," and in general draws on that extensive oral tradition for which the French are so justly famed… [There’s] the British approach—call it the Elliptical or Blushful Hippocrene school—involving wet leaves, berries in hedgerows, plowed earth, dusty stone walls, lichen- covered churches...images redolent of those brisk country walks the British prefer to sex…. [A] much newer school has arisen which adopts a plain-English, tell-it-like-it-is approach, embraced by American …. Its imagistic database is first and foremost fruit. A typical assessment of a red wine might go: "Gobs of fruit: overripe aromas of prunes, oranges, black cherries and black raspberries..." White wines might be compared to apples, lemons, pears, peaches, apricots, pineapples and so on. Spices and herbal scents are ubiquitous referents through which specific spices or herbs are rarely identified. "Flowery" or "floral" is also common, though ditto. Wood referents include the obvious oak (and therefore vanilla from the vanillin in oak wood), smoke, cedar, pine and occasionally hickory. Tony Hendra, “Forbes Magazine”, Fall 1998 FYI.
A cathedral full of archbishops in all their finery.
Clive Coates on the 1990 DRC wines.
A concoction of wild fruits and sundry berries, with crushed ants predominating.
Anonymous on an early vintage of Grange Hermitage, quoted in Wine Spectator, June 30, 1995.
A middle aged but charming lady.
Michael Broadbent on the 1937 Margaux.
Andre Tchelistcheff is famous for saying California Cabernet is like a young woman wrapped in fur.
Joy Sterling, A Cultivated Life: A Year in a California Vineyard, 1993.
'A ripe and vinous nose with a hint of game and cigar boxes.' This memorable line refers not to W. C. Fields, but to a 1993 Chianti. Frank Prial, New York Times, April 23, 1997.
A typical Moselle will have a subtle dryness with a flowery bouquet and a light and frivolous quality like a Strauss waltz played in a garden.
Julian Street, quoted in A Notebook for the wines of France, Creighton Churchill, Knopf, New York, 1961.
'Black fruits, leather, tar, smoke. Concentrated fruit with rustic edges carried into a protracted finish. Smoky oak is prevalent.' This was another reviewer's attempt to convey his impressions of a 1991 California cabernet sauvignon. Frank Prial, New York Times, April 23, 1997.
Broadbent says there is a quality he looks for in Burgundies which remind him of walks on the beach in Bristol, England.
Joy Sterling, A Cultivated Life: A Year in a California Vineyard, 1993.
Broadbent: “iron fist in a velvet glove”.
Attributed to Michael Broadbent; wine not known.
Château Haut-Brion represents the quintessence of the elégance, the complexity and the grandeur of Bordeaux wines.
Robert Parker, 1998.
Cheap California cooking sherry with a shot of rump roast in it.
Chris Coad, WLDG, March 29, 1999, on a Jamaican wine.
Come quickly! I am tasting stars! [at his first sip of champagne].
Dom Perignon, Dictionary of Quotations, Bergen Evans, 1968.
Deep, cedary, developing.
Michael Broadbent on 1966 Ch. Pichon-Lalande.
Despite the reports of it going down hill, it is clearly enjoying the ride.
Michael Broadbent on 1934 Lafite.
… distilled dew and honey with the fragrance of all the fresh wild flowers of the field greeting the dawn.
André Simon, on Château d’Yquem, quoted in Wine Quotations, edited by Helen Exley, 1994.
Enough poop to make you look at the bottom of your shoes.
Stuart Yaniger on a nicely bretted Rhône.
Exceptionally great … full and round … wines to lay down with.
J. R. Rogers, Bordeaux, on the 1945 vintage.
‘Firm fruit on the nose with good grip.’ Thus does a reviewer of considerable reputation describe a minor 1994 Bordeaux. Frank Prial, New York Times, April 23, 1997.
First whiff off-putting, hydrogen sulfide, hen droppings, iodine, but recovered, crisp, trying hard to be fragrant.
Michael Broadbent on 1977 Château Gloria in New Great Vintage Wine Book, 1991.
Floral essences, of tar, of spice, of fur.
Victor Hazan on Brunello di Montalcino in Italian Wine, 1983.
Fresh straw and ripe peaches, an earthy intensity underlying the elegance, suggestions of wood smoke, of honey and of freshly sawn oak.
“[T]he grandest white wine in the world”, Puligny-Montrachet, Journal of a Village in Burgundy, Simon Loftus, 1993.
Hardly did it appear, than from my mouth it passed into my heart.
Abbe de Challieu, 1715, upon first tasting Champagne; Wine on Line.
[Haut-Brion. A] wine of first rank and seems to please the American palate more than all the others I have been able to taste in France.
Thomas Jefferson, 1784.
Honey-sweet ... unmixed, a divine drink.
Homer, The Odyssey, about a draft prepared for Cyclops.
However, this bottle was not marked 'poison,' so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.
I drank a kind of French wine called Ho-Bryan which had a good and most particular taste.
Samuel Pepys, 1663.
I long for the day I'm scanning one of these phone books and something jumps off the page like: "Complex nose of Bazooka with creamy undertones of Fluffernutter; gobs of Moon Pie in the mouth intertwined with green Gummi Bears and hedonistic hints of Ricola cough drops. Intense lingering finish of Pez and Altoids." I'd run out and buy a case of whatever overpriced, over-oaked, over-octaned muck it was, right there.
Tony Hendra, “Forbes Magazine”, Fall 1998 FYI.
Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? Judges 8:2.
‘It is a little shy wine like a gazelle.’
‘Like a leprechaun.’
‘Dappled, in a tapestry meadow.’
‘Like a flute by still water.’
‘… And this is a wise old wine.’
‘A prophet in a cave.’
‘… And this is a necklace of pearls on a white neck.’
‘Like a swan.’
‘Like the last unicorn…’
‘Ought we to be drunk every night?’ Sebastian asked one evening.
‘Yes, I think so.’
‘I think so too.’
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited, Charles Ryder and Sebastian.
It’s a wine of taffeta, well woven and of good yarn.
François Rabelais, Gargantua, about Vouvray from Touaine.
It's like being strapped to Elle MacPherson and bungy-jumping into a vat filled with cat's pee and gooseberry leaves!
An Australian wine store's mailer, as re-printed in the late Herb Caen's column in the San Francisco Chronicle on the first vintage of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
I think it's a stunning wine. But its beauty is sort of like Meryl Streep's -- slightly flawed.
A vintner on his own zinfandel; Angels’ Visits, David Darlington, 1991.
Like an Irish spring, Fruit Loop frosted Cheerio. Hey, we just make 'em up as we go.
Wine X Magazine, Vol. 2.3, on a Sutter Home 1996 Moscato.
Lots of color and bags of fruit.
Harry Waugh on a young Château Latour 1961, quoted in Decanter, September, 1997 by Steven Spurrier.
Maggie: This doesn't look like vinegar.
Maggie: This doesn't taste like vinegar.
Plexico: [After tasting] Son of a bitch!
'Year of the Comet', 1992.
My champagne was firmly strapped down and off we went back to the war…. It must be admitted it was not very good champagne. It must equally be acknowledged that having been shaken up all day (a Sherman [tank] is no limousine) and lying on the equivalent of a red hot Aga did not do too much to improve it. But we were not so sophisticated in those days and it was better than army tea.
Peter Carrington, Cyril Ray, Compleat Imbiber No. 14, 1989.
Nose stewed tea and old leaves, distinctly vegetal but opened up like a wet Labrador.
Michael Broadbent on 1968 Château Pétrus in New Great Vintage Wine Book, 1991.
Now I know what they mean by the nectar of the gods.
Janet Ross, August, 1997, about her first d’Yquem.
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm south,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth; That I might drink,
and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim …
John Keats, Poems, Ode to a Nightingale.
Okay, so it has sophisticated assertiveness, presumptuous breeding, crisp authority, complex balance, elegant power, and respected finesse: What does it taste like?
Marvin Myers in a cartoon, reproduced in R. S. Jackson, Conserve Water, Drink Wine, 1997.
One of the rarest vintages, 1965, is a year that rivals the worst of the century in Bordeaux. Recently a private collection in Baltimore came up for sale and it was a shock to see the surprising quantities of 1965 Bordeaux that had been cellared. I wonder if the owner died naturally, or whether the wines killed him! At first glance, this 1965 Mouton looks promising because of its medium garnet color with only slight amber at the edge. However, one whiff of the nose reveals the problems of the 1965 vintage. The odor of rotten garbage, stale mushrooms, and stewed fruit is appalling. Because of its "educational value," I was willing to put this wine in my mouth. I just had to see what might be there given the frightful smell. I found the wine to be exceptionally high in acidity, with an artificial, cloying, disjointed character. Although the wine had some fruit, glycerin, and body, it was undrinkable.
Robert Parker, rating the 1965 Mouton at 50.
Peacock's tail opening up in the spring…
Michael Broadbent on the 1976 La Tâche in 1980 Tasting Notes. May also be Camille Rodier: "roue de pavon au palais".
[See also: Has the color of blackstrap molasses, kind of smells like it, too, but the texture and balance are so elegant and refined that the flavors play out like a peacock's tail opening. Smoky prune, molasses and raspberry swirl around the nucleus, with orbits of thyme, hazelnut, walnut and coffee skittering around. Sensational.
9/16/97 Wine Spectator review of Chambers Non – Vintage Tokay Rutherglen Rosewood Vineyards Rare.]
Ravenswood: Joel Peterson says that he was once bringing a truckload of grapes to a winery for crushing when the truck he was driving overturned on the highway, spilling its contents over the roadway. There was a scramble to get the grapes off the roadway before the police called in a clean-up crew from the state highway patrol. "We managed to salvage the grapes before the highway department got there," he said. Later, when Peterson released the wine made from those grapes he said that a reviewer, who was familiar with highway accident commented, "it's a full-bodied wine but has a bit of a tarry finish."
“The Zen of Zin”, Jim Hammett, Wine Today.com, August, 1998.
Roses stuffed up a goat’s ass.
Fran Kysela on Bandol, quoted by Jason Brandt Lewis on WLDG, March 28, 1999.
Still, it was challenged for me by the most extraordinarily haunting scents of the 1847 [Yquem]. This gloriously reviving mid-19th century wine smelled exactly like hot raspberries and vanilla cream.
Jancis Robinson, Los Angeles Times, December 31, 1998.
Still opaque, intense, its youthful hue pressing the sides of the glass like a referee trying to keep two heavyweights apart.
Michael Broadbent on 1972 Heitz Cellar’s Martha’s Vineyard in New Great Vintage Wine Book, 1991.
… that nectareous, delicious, precious, heavenly, joyful and divine liquor called wine.
Rabelais, Pantagruel, 1532.
There is no use writing notes in advance of a tasting; if I had done so, I would have written that this was a deep colored wine, but it is not a deep color, it has quite a light hue. This is a creamy wine, it needs time, three years perhaps; smoother; a tarry note? (at least you can imagine one!); a very tannic structure. “Two cases, at least. Damn it, we’ll have the vineyard!”
Hugh Johnson on 1993 Biondi-Santi Brunello di Montalcino “Poggio Salvi” Tuscany, January, 1999.
The taste, even after 75 years, was unforgettable, old, long past its prime, but still redolent of honey, almonds and all the spices of the Levant. In five minutes, the wine was dead. Exposure to the air. But what a fascinating five minutes.
Frank Prial on a 1911 Château Filhot Sauterne, Memorable Bottles, Wines of the World Gold Edition, CD-ROM, 1998.
The vinous equivalent of Liquid Plumber.
Robert Parker rating a Tepusquet Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 52; why the two points?
The wine had scents of crushed violet, woodland berries and a hint of white truffle--earthy but not in the barnyard sense, more like an autumn forest. A web of mouth-filling flavors, richly textured, followed and lingered an exceedingly long time.
Barbara Ensrud, 1998.
Thine, boring and with no breeding. I don’t know why they bother to make it.
Serena Sutcliffe, Burgundy.
This is a real guzzler!
Janet Ross, November 1997, about a Ravenswood Zinfandel.
Very dark ruby. Black fruit and dark chocolate aromas with highlights of orange peel and spice, absolutely delicious on the nose. The palate doesn't quite uphold the aroma's promise, but it's a serviceable wine, with juicy black-fruit flavors structured with crisp acidity, and quite impressive for the single-digit price.
Robin Garr on a $8.00 Casa Gualda 1995 Crianza Cencibel-Cabernet Sauvignon 50% Red Wine of La Mancha.
Vigne de L’Enfant Jésus, the finest section of Beaune Grèves, was given its name by the Carmelite nuns who once owned it. Speaking of its pronounced velvety smoothness, the Burgundian sisters exclaimed: “It slips down the throat as the Infant Jesus in velvet trousers.”
Label for the 1995 Vigne de L’Enfant Jésus.
Watch out when the auctioneer calls some 19th century wine ‘a graceful old lady whose wrinkles are starting to show through layers of make-up.’ That means the wine is undrinkable, and some fool will spend $500 for it.
Robert Parker, quoted in Bottled Wisdom, compiled and edited by Mark Pollman, 1998.
What can I say about the 1994 [Harlan Estate Proprietary Red Wine (100) - $100]? I have tasted the wine for three consecutive years, and each time it satisfied all of my requirements for perfection. The opaque purple color is followed by spectacular aromatics that soar from the glass, offering up celestial levels of black currants, minerals, smoked herbs, cedar wood, coffee, and pain grille. In the mouth, this seamless legend reveals full body, and exquisite layers of phenomenally pure and rich fruit, followed by a 40+ second finish. While accessible, the 1994 begs for another 5-7 years of cellaring. It should easily last for 30+ years. Every possible jagged edge - acidity, alcohol, tannin, and wood - is brilliantly intertwined in what seems like a diaphanous format. What is so extraordinary about this large-scaled wine, with its dazzling display of aromatics and prodigious flavors and depth, is that it offers no hint of heaviness or coarseness. Harlan's 1994 comes close to immortality in the glass.
Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, December 19, 1997.
White Zin is generally zinfandel stripped of all its character, and any chardonnay poor enough to go into this blend rather than a varietally labeled chardonnay has got to be the absolute bottom of the, uh, barrel. The wine is remarkable for possessing absolutely no aroma whatsoever, and in addition to its flabby and sticky Kool-Aid flavors there's that not-so-subtle hint of toasted vanilla from the oak. Irony alert: this wine wholesales for $6.66 per bottle, which is appropriate for this oenological spawn of Satan.
Thor Iverson, Boston Phoenix, November 1998.
[Wine tastes range from] nectar-dripping orchids in a Tahitian paradise to the feral stink of a sun-warmed manure pile.
Willie Gluckstern, The Wine Avenger, 1998.