Many popular wine reviews read like grocery lists of aromas, often delving into the obscure or exotic, written with heavy poetic license:
“…an aroma of chocolate-covered prunes stewing on the stove, along with notes of brick dust, black currant preserve, fresh espresso and powdered rust”
And as much as I personally love a little brick dust and powdered rust, I am not sure that this description would have me running to the store to hunt down a bottle…
I aim to write simple, to the point, reviews that highlight the main aromas but focus more on the wine’s underlying structure: its acidity, perceived sweetness, alcohol, tannic profile, body, oak character, etc. In Master of Wine tastings, we are encouraged to look at wines holistically, describing all facets and determining quality based on “BLICC” (balance, length, intensity, complexity, concentration).
I may not describe a wine as smelling like “a fresh can of tennis balls”, but hopefully what I lack in descriptive flair, I will make up for in understandable, approachable reading.
My Personal Preference
Critics do their best to be neutral; to put aside their own taste and judge on objective qualitative criteria. Of course this is impossible. We are all human, and bound to be more enthusiastic about what we love. I personally only take wine recommendations from people that I know to have similar tastes to mine. If you ask someone who loves nothing more than a big, oaky Napa Cab to suggest a Pinot Noir, you are much more likely to end up with a heavy, extracted style than someone who lives for New Zealand, Loire and Burgundy.
So while I plan to taste widely, covering all styles and strive to score purely on qualitative merit, I admit that I am an unabashed Burgund-o-phile. I love the purity of fruit, balance, elegance and finesse. I am fond of oak…but only in measured doses; well integrated and harmonious. I am ok with high alcohol levels – if they are imperceptible due to the richness and body of the wine. Basically, I like restrained, balanced wines that compliment, rather than overpower my dinner.