Monday, January 21, 2008

How to Taste - A Great Learning Opportunity or an Exercise in Futility?

One of the crazier and completely impractical ideas I’ve had of late has been to take the book “How to Taste” by Jancis Robinson and follow it though from beginning to end and in the process… learn how to taste wine.

It’s a great book with very detailed instruction on how identify acidity, sweetness, bitterness, saltiness, tannins, etc and then apply that to wine and assess quality, imperfection and balance among other things.

If I can follow the book through to the end, I believe that my ability to assess wine will be much improved. As of right now, I think I do an ok job at it which is all fine and well but I would love to try and take the skill of tasting wine to the next level so to speak.

The book is also laid out in a really thoughtful way, splitting theory with an applied “practice session.” For example, in the section on balance, the theory section talks about the relationship between sweetness and acidity, detailing what you should notice when a wine is too sweet and out of balance, too acidic and out of balance, or when it’s just right and the two are in harmony with one another. Then it moves on to the practice section where she suggests buying a good sauternes, a less inexpensive sweet white wine, a Loire “sec”, and an inexpensive French country white and then comparing the balance of each.

I think it’s a great approach and one that I would get a lot out of. However… there are 102 of these practice sessions within the 200+ pages of the book or essentially half of the book! In short, it’s going to be somewhat expensive and certainly time consuming if I want to take this on. But… I’m going to give it a try for a couple of reasons.

* First, I really would like to take my ability to taste and assess wine up a notch or so.

* Second, I want to expand this blog a little bit and break out from the tried and true “Tasting Note” format. Writing about the practice sessions as I go along will hopefully help with that.

* Third, I want to experiment a little bit with the idea of podcasting. It’s my hope that some of these practice sessions will show up as a podcast and add a little bit of color to the experience. I’m not promising anything, I’m just saying that I’m going to give it a try.

* Fourth and perhaps the most important is that I want to include my wine drinking friends in the process and add more voices to this blog. Podcasting fits right into this. Since I believe that listening to a one-person podcast is akin to listening to one hand clapping, I’m hoping that by bringing my friends into the process will add another whole new dimension and the element of interaction.

As far as the practice sessions go, my idea is they will take the form of both standard blog entries as well as podcasts.

I also want to mention the inspirations for this whole project. First is the book itself. How to Taste – A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson. I’ve had it for a while and have just recently recognized its brilliance. Second is the idea of following a guide from beginning to end. The idea is blatantly ripped off from the Julie/Julia Project masterminded by Julie Powell in blog form which was then turned into a book. Third are all the podcasts I’ve been listening to which include the wine focuses Grape Radio and 3 Wine Guys as well as a some food focused casts with the best being Eat-Feed.

By the way, the complication to all this is that I'll be a dad in March. No better time to take on a project like this!

There it is. Lets see how it turns out.

1 comment:

RougeAndBlanc said...

Congrats! this exercise will be the best way to sharpen your tasting skills so that you can collect some wines for your new born.