The first, and maybe most important, step is to put on my tasting clothes. You cannot produce consistent tasting notes wearing different clothes all the time. Duh. The best critics know this, which explains why Richard Hemming MW is always in a ball gown. You just can’t underdress for the finest wineries. Wearing a different set of clothing for different varieties is acceptable, however. For example, if you want to wear a track suit every time you taste Merlot, that’s fine. Merlot is Old Man Wine anyway, so a track suit makes sense. A pee stain is a nice touch. The only thing one shouldn’t wear is a muumuu. They’re for tasting milk. Oh man, that’s a good one! I wear Spanx under a pale blue leisure suit. It’s both comfortable and stylish.
Next I make sure that the wines I’m tasting are covered in tin foil. This is not to hide the labels, but, rather, to match the tin foil hat I’m wearing, which protects me from the evil, mind-controlling thoughts of aliens, most notably Antonio Galloni and Michel Bettane. They transmit powerful rays that can penetrate your skull and make you not only give the wines higher scores than they deserve, which has happened to many notable critics, but also make you crave the flesh of kittens. When’s the last time you saw a kitten with a noted wine critic? Laube has a house account at the local shelter. See.
The stemware is also important. First off, I prefer clean. After every sip. No double-dipping, that’s for idiots, amateurs and contributors to Food and Wine Magazine, if there’s a difference. If I need to retaste a wine, I request a fresh, clean glass. This is very important, particularly because my lipstick often leaves a stain and it’s not fair to the wine to taste it with lipstick. I just love my bubblegum lipstick, but find it’s only compatible with Chilean Chardonnay. Finally, I exclusively use Riedel Pompous Ass™ Stemware, the all-purpose Douchebag model, named for James Suckling.
Now I’m ready to taste. First I judge color. Does my lipstick go with my tin foil hat? Then I look at the wine. With my years of experience, I can often tell if the wine is red or white. Beginners are often fooled. Once I know the color of the wine, I can begin to formulate a score. A red wine automatically receives five more points than a white wine simply because it’s better. The same reasoning has been applied to the earning power of men versus women, and hasn’t that worked out? I know if I want a raise, I just have to lower my Spanx and wave my credentials. References available upon request.
Next it’s time to smell the wine. Initially, I check for off-aromas. Unless it’s German wine, and then I check for Pfalz. Oh, man, another good one! I’m hotter than Napa Valley cult Cabernet today. My tin foil hat must be picking up the Comedy Channel. Perhaps the wine is corked. A wine that is corked is often described as having the aroma of wet dog, though I find the aroma reminiscent of Jon Bonné’s laundry hamper (long story). If the aromatics of the wine are fault-free, I begin to analyze its components. I’m looking for beauty, complexity, interest, purity and every other thing I can think of that is vague and doesn’t make me have to come up with more specific adjectives. Mostly, I ask myself, “Do it smell good?” I ask out loud, most of the time, which usually really ticks off the other judges on my panel.
It’s important to remember that wine engages all of your senses, like drowning. If you’re short on senses, you just shouldn’t drink wine. Blind people should drink beer. It’s good for what ales ya. Man, I’m a Buddhist monk today — on fire! True wine appreciation requires sight, smell, taste, feel and hearing. Hearing? Yes, hearing. I can tell you for a fact that the best and most important wine critics hear lots of voices in their heads. Something a simple tin foil hat can prevent. Tim Atkin MW, at least, knows this.
Finally, it’s time to taste the wine. I like to take a nice healthy sip. I’d guess about four or five ounces at a time. I know that seems like a lot, but, really, you need that much to gargle. What is it I’m looking for in a wine’s taste? First of all, balance. What does balance taste like? For a good reference point, toss down a shot of Jim Beam. Come on, who doesn’t love the balance Beam? Sometimes I’ll go to two different places and order the same shot of balance Beam. Yup, those are parallel bars. Whooeee!!!, I’m cooking with gas now. I then look for the intensity of the fruit. This tells you a lot about yield. It’s like women — the more intense ones are the ones that will lower their yield. But it’s texture that means the most in tasting wine. Something in a nice corduroy is great. Wines can also be velvety, satiny or a nice taffeta. So I look for wines that most closely resemble bridesmaids’ dresses.
And, finally, the finish.