by Ron Washam

How I taste

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 cant 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, thats fine. Merlot is Old Man Wine anyway, so a track suit makes sense. A pee stain is a nice touch. The only thing one shouldnt wear is a muumuu. Theyre for tasting milk. Oh man, thats a good one! I wear Spanx under a pale blue leisure suit. Its both comfortable and stylish.

Next I make sure that the wines Im tasting are covered in tin foil. This is not to hide the labels, but, rather, to match the tin foil hat Im 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. Whens 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, thats 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 its not fair to the wine to taste it with lipstick. I just love my bubblegum lipstick, but find its only compatible with Chilean Chardonnay. Finally, I exclusively use Riedel Pompous AssStemware, the all-purpose Douchebag model, named for James Suckling.

Now Im 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 its better. The same reasoning has been applied to the earning power of men versus women, and hasnt 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 its time to smell the wine. Initially, I check for off-aromas. Unless its German wine, and then I check for Pfalz. Oh, man, another good one! Im 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 Bonnés laundry hamper (long story). If the aromatics of the wine are fault-free, I begin to analyze its components. Im looking for beauty, complexity, interest, purity and every other thing I can think of that is vague and doesnt 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.

Its important to remember that wine engages all of your senses, like drowning. If youre short on senses, you just shouldnt drink wine. Blind people should drink beer. Its good for what ales ya. Man, Im 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, its time to taste the wine. I like to take a nice healthy sip. Id 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 Im looking for in a wines 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 doesnt love the balance Beam? Sometimes Ill go to two different places and order the same shot of balance Beam. Yup, those are parallel bars. Whooeee!!!, Im cooking with gas now. I then look for the intensity of the fruit. This tells you a lot about yield. Its like women — the more intense ones are the ones that will lower their yield. But its 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.

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