Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wine Wednesday Reviews: Review Method

Starting this week, I will be trying (I can't guarantee) to provide a weekly review or tasting of a wine. This wine of the week feature will occur on Wednesdays to help readers enjoy their Wine Wednesdays. In these reviews, I hope to provide insight into the wine; I want to communicate my wine drinking experience.

With that said, I should make it clear that I won't be taking the traditional approach. Though I will do my best to present the typical wine descriptors, such as flavor, mouth-feel, and other more physical observations, they will not dominate my reviews. Instead, I will be providing a review much more like the taste experiences presented in Drops of God (for more info, see #30: A Look at Drops of God).

Why I struggle with describing flavors or Why I can't quite take the traditional approach

The traditional approach to describing wines is based on flavor and wine knowledge. It provides insight into how a wine should taste and feel when the reader drinks the wine. However, I am not good at it for two reasons.

First, I am not an expert. I try as best I can to discuss flavors and sensations, but I can only go so far. The reason for this is ALL of my wine knowledge is self-learned. I have picked up what I can from listening to, watching, and reading others. I only have so much understanding, but I try to use what I am sure of.

The main reason I cannot provide a more taste based review, more insight to flavor, is my lack of flavor knowledge. I have crazy taste buds; when I try to eat certain sorts of food or smell them (take for example soy sauce), I start to gag. This hypersensitivity, which is a condition (there are disagreements between it being physical or mental), has limited what I can experience through eating and drinking. I have been left deficient, which causes me to struggle on how to describe flavors I taste in wine.

Why I want to model Drops of God

Now, food may be a problem, but for some reason, I can enjoy most wines; I rarely have a gag reflex (I do have it with most beers and some hard liquor). This realization and freedom lead me to embrace wine; for once, I had something that I almost never reacted to poorly (I could actually just dislike a wine rather than not be able to drink it). But due to my lack of flavor knowledge, I feared expressing my ideas -- often only whispering them to Sean. Then I started reading Drops of God. Suddenly, I found a way to explain a wine.

Drops of God Vol. 4: Wine as a painting

As I discussed in my Drops of God post, the main characters do partake in traditional tastings; they describe flavors, mouth-feel, etc. However, the emphasis is more imagery based. With any of the major wines a character drinks, normally he (sometimes she) will describe a vision of the wine; these visions are more akin to art, poetry, or fiction. Sometimes a scene, a setting, or a moment is presented, as if the drinker is describing a painting or a view. Then there are times when emotion and more intangible sensation is described, resembling poetry. And then there are others when a story unfolds. This I could understand, and this I could do.
Drops of God Vol. 4: Wine as an emotion, as poetry

I have been involved in the creative arts all my life. Like so many, I tried my hand at art but found I was not skilled enough to fully express my ideas. What I did learn was that I could understand and appreciate art. But more than that, I learned that I could paint whatever I wanted with words. I could weave a story that allowed a reader to slip into a world or a life not his/her own. And to my surprise, I could grasp the core of a moment or feeling and convey it through words and images. Knowing I have these skills, I feel comfort in the Drops of God tastings. I know I can express what I experience if I let go of preconceived notions and allow myself to find what the wine inspires in me rather than focus on what it tastes like.
Drops of God Vol. 4: Wine as a story

My tasting experience and how I do it

I have danced around the idea for months, occasionally providing images or emotions conveyed through the wine I drank. Now I have decided to embrace it. Since what I understand is poetry and fiction, I will primarily review wines following the Drops of God example (making sure to bring up at least some flavor descriptors).

However, this will limit the wines I review. Some wines are Kanzaki's Twelve Apostles and his Drops of God, and other wines are just good wine. I have to go with the apostles and the Drops of God; the wines I review have to move me, have to make me sense more than the wine. Luckily for me, I know there are more than thirteen great wines out there; these are the wine I will review.

Once I find an inspiring wine, I then have to sit with it. I have to spend time taking in the aroma, holding the wine in my mouth, slowly letting the wine roll over my tongue. I have to let the wine move through me. As I do this, I sit and focus on what I am feeling, both physically and emotional. Maybe a memory will race into my mind, such as a taste or smell from my past but more often a moment. The wine could conjure up a simple image or physical sensation that floods my mind. Sometimes, the wine reaches deep within me and stirs an emotion. During the best experiences, I get swept up into a little bit of everything.  Sip after sip, I have to let my mind and body react, let it go where it will go. This is how Shizuku Kanzaki understands wine; it is how wine fulfills me.

On to the reviews

I am now confident in embracing this because it seems more people are either interested in or relate to other approaches. Recently, fellow Texas Wine blogger the Texas Wine Geek has decided to provide more visual tastings, ones that rely on colors he notices as he drinks a wine (click here for a great example). I thought if he could move beyond the traditional, if he could break the rules, so could I. I am grateful for him, and others out there, for taking the risk and helping me find the courage to do so as well.

Everyone has his/her own approach to experiencing life and expressing his-/herself, a lesson I try to impart to my writing students. All we can do is communicate what we know the best we can. For me, sharing wine is often a more emotional experience, so I will try to share that in future posts. Wine Wednesdays, here I come.


  1. Awesome idea! I am looking forward to this unique way of vinous expression!

  2. First one begins today. I am starting with Becker Vineyards Reserve Tempranillo.