Look for something more than character and easily-said notes or nuances. Look to you, what it makes you feel and think about. If there is a particular note or suggestion, like ‘cinnamon’ or ‘black cherry’, or ‘dark chocolate dust’ makes its way to your brain and that has you in a memory of some kind, then follow that. Follow you in the wine, in and out of the red or white mood.
I hear the “descriptors” all the time, in the same way, over and over but I never hear the person sipping talk about their feeling for the wine or why it’s speaking to them… why, I always have to say to self. Last night, for me, I sipped the latest vintage of Russian River Pinot from Arista, the 2018. If you want to talk description and elucidation for a Russian River Pinot, everything was there… cherry, toasted marshmallow, cinnamon (I love cinnamon so I think I taste it in pretty much every red wine), some mint even, light fruit leather…. But more than anything it made me think of the day I helped out at Arista. The people, the McWilliams family, the time just before my daughter was born, how my learning of Pinot’s ways and magic and principle language was still taking form, and the form was wandering.. there were no aims, there were no expectations, and certain no excessively repeated, annoying descriptors. Me, my life, my family, where I was going.. that’s what last night’s sips had me seeing and feeling. There was no adjective swarm, just feeling and love, appreciation of where I am what I was doing with that bottle.
When people in a tasting room fret over saying the “right words”, I sometimes will ask “What are the RIGHT words?” Another response I have that startles people, after they say “What am I supposed to be tasting… oh it’s right there beneath the wine.”, is “It IS beneath the wine.” Some people don’t get it, but what I’m hoping to offer is the idea that the language can diminish the experience. It should be about you, and what you feel from the wine. Descriptions are fine, but they are not final, and I would say not formidable. They’re secondary, ancillary, if at all needed.
When I’m out tasting, I’m not looking for anything other than to meet people and experience new wines. Language comes naturally, is not forced. And when sipping, the language concerning the wine is usually kept brief, something to the throw of “That’s nice…” or “Sexy” or “Bright”. Sometimes one of friends will get into the conversation and if he or she is an industry character like me or just a fervent collector then we’ll get more technical, if you could even regard it as technical. But why, I always ask. Let’s enjoy the company of the other, of the wine, the time, life now…. What it makes us think, see, FEEL.
When tasting, think less and live more. Be present and self-exploring, same way your meander in the new architecture of new wines with which you speak, to which you listen.