Tasting notes play a vital role in being mindful of wine, and despite how much their role has been debated recently, they do serve a worthy purpose.
Having experienced the rigors of the WSET up through the Diploma level, I am used to creating tasting notes. But even well before I started any formal classes, I was using tasting notes as a way to focus my attention on the wines I was tasting. The practice of writing a tasting note, no matter how rudimentary, demands you at least be paying some attention to what you are drinking. Tasting notes also lay a foundation upon which true experience is properly built. When used properly, tasting notes allow you to understand a wine. They allow you to relate that wine to others you have experienced in the past. They build upon each other and play off of each other to help shape your wine knowledge. Tasting notes also provide some insight into not only the wine in your glass, but into yourself and how you approach wine.
A good deal of what you will find on In Pursuit of Winefulness will be my tasting notes*. But my intent is to not simply dump a bland and boring two-line description of a wine here along with some random two (or more recently three!) digits thrown together, as I do not believe there is much value in that approach. Instead my tasting notes for a wine will attempt to offer a complete description of the wine and the experience it brings. It is my hope that my tasting notes will allow you to experience a wine alongside me. My notes should give you a sense not only of the wine, but how it relates to the overall wine world. And more importantly, how it relates to my wine world. Reading my tasting notes should allow you to see, smell, taste and enjoy a wine through my eyes. No matter how objective one tries to be in writing a tasting note, notes remain deeply personal and reflect one’s personal views on the wine. My notes represent the building blocks in my overall accumulation of wine knowledge and experience. And in publishing them here, hopefully they can be building blocks for your knowledge as well.
So where to begin on this trip through Winefulness? With the King of course.
Let’s explore why Barolo gets top choice.
I was first properly introduced to Barolo wines while my wife and I were dating and living in Manhattan. We would frequently dine (and had our first date) at I Trulli. And although there are many reasons to recommend I Trulli: delicious food (Sardinian saffron dumplings are out of this world), outdoor garden seating and beautiful fireplace, one of the main things I Trulli excels at is its wine list. The list is extensive, and is filled with many many back vintages. From the wine books I had read at that point, I knew Barolo was regarded as one of the top wines from Italy, so in my effort to seem sophisticated and knowledgeable, I would typically turn to the Barolo section of I Trulli’s wine list. Thankfully the list didn’t just include recent releases (which would have numbed our mouths and prevented us from tasting our food), but it had many back vintages to choose from as well. My first tastes of Barolo then were ones that were ready to be consumed and enjoyed, and ready to provide a splendid introduction to the possibilities of the region. And obviously the environment of a beautiful restaurant and the beginning stages of love helped make the wines taste that much better.
The seeds for a relationship with Barolo had been planted, but admittedly other wines still remained at the forefront of my attention. However a few years ago I decided I wanted to learn a bit more about Barolo (and its Piemontese partner, Barbaresco), so I attended a wine tasting/course on the two at Italian Wine Merchants, a great wine store on 16th St in Manhattan. In the class we explored several examples, and I was blown away by the great heights that Nebbiolo could achieve in the two regions. I bought a lot of wine that day, and decided to devote out a large section of my wine cellar to Barolo and Barbaresco.
However, I could never give my full attention to Barolo with all the tasting and learning that was required across all the wine world as part of my WSET studies. But I would stare at the bottles I had purchased and always felt their pull on me. I always knew the would eventually draw me in to their world and all of its wonder. And in many ways that draw was what led me down the path of deciding to start this blog. I knew that to learn Barolo, to truly feel like I knew it and felt comfortable with it, I would need to give it my full and utmost attention.
Welcome to my little corner of the wine world. Why don’t you come out to the balcony and join me?
In Pursuit of Winefulness started as a bit of “next steps” for me. I recently completed my Diploma courses from the WSET, and since I have a full-time life outside of wine world (check out the About Me page), I was looking for something to help channel my wine passion. I have been interested in learning about wine (the regions, varietals, vintages and people involved) ever since I started drinking wine. While I was reading or studying or taking whatever course I happened to be in, I had a reason to focus my attention on all the intricacies of wine. But with the Masters of Wine a bit further on the horizon (with its pesky requirement that you need to work in the wine business for 3 years), I sat down to think of ways I could keep the same level of focus without a test or deadline hanging over my head. And thus, this blog was created.
The world of wine is vast and you could spend years and years studying it and still not really know wine. Or at least even come close to knowing wine, because wine is ever-changing. It is easy to enjoy wine with only a minor effort, and many people stop there. But for me, there is more to learn. For me, wine is interactive, and the more you know about wine the more interactive it becomes. A glass of wine can become more than a refreshing thirst-quencher or a regular purchase at the supermarket or local liquor store. Wine can provide a glimpse into other worlds, allowing us to wonder: Where did it came from? Who made it? How did the flavor of cherries combine with spice and flowers? Why do I keep remembering that bottle I drank two weeks ago?
All of these questions, and many many more, can flow out of a glass of wine. And the more you look to answer those questions, the more questions come forth. But rather than become disheartened thinking there is never an end-point, there can be enjoyment in seeking those answers and finding new questions. That is how wine is for me.
But with all of these questions, it can be easy to lose focus and not truly engage in finding the answers. You may think you are engaged, but knowledge remains at the surface. That is why wine calls for you to be mindful. Mindfulness to me is being present in the moment, focusing on the moment and all that it brings. Being fully and truly aware of what you are doing right now. Allowing whatever you are doing to have your full attention. Wine can act as a gateway to this state of mindfulness. Call it a state of winefulness. It is contemplative. Sometimes it is hidden and sometimes it is mysterious. Many times you only come to understand a wine when you spend some time with it. Allow it to pour into all of your senses until it becomes a part of you.