We’re doing something a little different tonight… a book review.
Friends of mine frequently ask me how they can become better at tasting wine. While there are a lot of exercises and studying that you can do to improve your wine knowledge, there’s one piece of advice that I always give to people: take notes. If you want to better understand the wine you’re drinking, taking notes on it forces you to think more about it and really have an opinion. The more you do it, the more you’ll see some patterns emerge. Some of those patterns will help you understand varieties and regions and some will just help you figure out—and remember—which wines you like the best.
And although the idea of taking notes about the wine you’re tasting seems like a simple idea, once you start doing it you may wonder if you’re taking notes the right way. Well… you would wonder that if you’re neurotic, like me. It’s good, particularly when you first start to take wine notes, to have some type of a “framework” to make sure you’re capturing as much information about the wine as possible and evaluating different characteristics/aspects of the wine. That’s where tasting note books come in handy… they give you a nice framework for your tasting notes. And that’s exactly what you’ll find in 33 Bottles of Wine.
It starts with the basics: Varietal, winery, vintage, region, price and date tasted. It has a space for a 1-5 star rating, which is cool if that’s your thing, but if you prefer a 20 or 100 point system I’d suggest just writing your rating over the stars. Then there’s a space for general notes, a must for any tasting note book. There’s a color meter, which is fairly self-explanatory.
And then there’s the Flavor Wheel. This is the most controversial part of the book for me, as I have mixed feelings about it. First of all, don’t confuse this with an Aroma Wheel, as it’s a bit different. At a glance, it looks a little bit like the Wine Spider system, but it’s also different from that. It’s really just a wheel of possible characteristics, for the most part, but there are a few things on the wheel that I would consider “qualitative measures” versus characteristics, such as Balance, Finish, Nose. I guess that was what made me question the wheel a bit, the combination of qualitative measures and characteristics. Damn, I can be overly finicky and analytical sometimes. But, as a reviewer, I guess that’s my job.
Anyway, in terms of providing a framework, I guess I like the flavor wheel—although it doesn’t mirror the framework I use for reviews. But for someone who is learning about wine and wanting to take notes, the Flavor Wheel guides your thought process through a number of qualitative and characteristic evaluations.
I’ve seen a few different tasting note books over the years and one complaint I’ve had about most of them is that they don’t fit in all my pockets. But that’s one thing I LOVE about 33 Bottles of Wine… it fits in my front shirt pocket, my jeans pocket or my jacket pocket. Wherever I want to tuck it away, it seems to fit perfectly.
You might have guessed by the name that there’s enough pages for notes on 33 different wines. And to top it all off, it’s made from recycled paper and there’s a little Cabernet Sauvignon mixed in with the ink.
All told, this is a handy little wine note book. They are priced at $4 a pop if you buy just one, but less if you buy multiples. You can buy them online at 33wines.com.
Disclosure: This book was received as a sample.