Top Five Most Over the Top Tasting Notes

Surely there is no one who's worked for any period of time in the wine trade who hasn't drifted, at one time or another, into the realms of the mildly absurd when it comes to describing a wine. I can remember fairly early in my career coming up with "this smells of black forest gateaux with a portion of mint choc chip ice cream". My only redemption came from one member of the group I was with actually agreeing with me.

Describing something as subjective and abstract as a flavour and a smell is not easy. Remain within the tighter confines of the oft quoted flavour wheel and all too quickly many wines can end up sounding the same (this isn't a comment on the homogenisation or not of wine). Drift too far into narrow personal sensory experiences and no one will be able to relate to you. Every now and again you will come across tasting notes that truly push the boundaries of sense and sometimes the English language. Here for your perusal is my personal top 5!

5. "...aromas of a ripe golden delicious picked on the 1st wednesday of september..."

Another skill rarely found outside the drink's industry world is an almost unbelievable ability to identify incredibly specific fruit inside a complex and flavourful wine. James Molesworth from Wine Spectator had this to say about the 2011 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay.

"This white cuts a bold swath, delivering flavors of dried Jonagold apple, fig, creamed pear, hazelnut and persimmon. Creamy and lush, held together by a finely beaded spine of acidity, with strong minerality kicking in on the lengthy finish. Showy and suave, yet balanced."

Not just any old apple flavours, but a JONAGOLD apple. A "finely beaded spine" sounds like something only possible after an ill-advised five hour session in a Soho tattoo parlour called "I'm sorry mum". And to finish; a summary that would make George Clooney blush. All very evocative.

4. Bargain of the century?

At only $10 a bottle I think the Ramon Bilbao Albarino 2010 wins the prize for most adjectives per £!

"On the nose: The aromatics of this wine is like nothing else in the world of white wines. It is intense and pungent with crushed Japanese gooseberries, also known as physalis, then pear sparkler, apple cider, pomelo fruit segments, water chestnuts, Key lime pie made with kaffir limes, tangerine rind and oodles of fresh minerality. It's just a beautifully scented wine with immense freshness emanating from the glass.

On the palate: This explosively delicious white wine coats the palate with a plethora of interesting white fruit characteristics, including, but not limited to, citrus rind, lemon drops, Granny Smith apples, white peach skins, apricot jam, honeysuckle and zesty minerals, coming through because the wine has no oak. The balance and the verve of this wine clearly defies its classification, and the finish is absolutely lovely and sharp as a tack."
3. I don't mean to panic everyone but we're all going to die horribly...

In December 2012 David Schildknecht, writing for the Wine Advocate, let his enthusiasm for a certain Washington State red wine (Rôtie Cellars Northern Blend 2010) get the better of him. The full 300 word monster review can be found here but for ease of consumption we have summarised the best bits:  

"Scents of bacon; fresh cherry and red raspberry shadowed by their distilled counterparts violet, honeysuckle, and acacia; musk; lavender and other resinous herbs; along with pungently bittersweet citrus oils, all capture one’s attention. Their counterparts on an infectiously juicy, fine-grained and strikingly buoyant palate are mingled with veal stock and mouth-wateringly savoury pan drippings...The clean, marrow-like meatiness that extends all the way through"

Quite a mouthful I'm sure you'll agree, on all levels, with some very scary undertones. Fruit being "shadowed" by "distilled", and I can only assume dangerous and highly trained, aromas? "Infectiously juicy"!? Is the World Health Organisation even aware of this disease yet? It sounds positively terrifying. Perhaps you end up like Violet Beauregard from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, except rather than being rolled off to the juicing room by comically orange midgets, you're screaming in agony with grape juice gushing from every orifice before exploding like an offal balloon?!! The final couple of sentences in the tasting note I ignored as I assumed it was accidentally cut and paste from a steakhouse review he was working on earlier in the day.

2. The next tasting note literally leaps from the page (and devours you whole)

Sometimes the simplest things bring the greatest pleasure. Like the incorrect use of one word, "literally". The word literally, of course, means that what you are describing literally has to have happened. Literally. One of its greatest exponents in the wine world is Antonio Galloni from the Wine Advocate. I know a list within a list is really taking the mickey (maybe this article will end up in a top five worst top fives as a result?) but I couldn't resist:

1. The 2009 Shafer One Point Five Cabernet no doubt made a mess of his clean shirt when it "literally exploded from the glass"

2. The 2010 Jadot Clos St Denis "Literally hovers on the palate". Houston there's something strange floating outside the capsule....

3. Worryingly the 2006 Voerzio Barolo Sarmassa "Literally explodes on the palate". Medic!!!! I need a medic over here!

4. Redefining modern physics in the process, the 2009 Puligny-Montrachet Folatieres from Jadot "literally fills out in every dimension". Anyone got Hawking's number?

5. Top spot must go to the Gaja Sperss 2006 whose finish "literally lasts an eternity" - This in turn led to The Never-ending Tasting Note which he is, by definition, still writing.
1. ........................

And then sometimes there are tasting notes that cannot be expounded upon, explained or excused.

"A fascinating amalgam of quinine, green tea, heliotrope, white raisin, maraschino, almond and pistachio extracts rises penetratingly and seductively from the glass, then reconvenes for a palate performance at once creamy, almost buttery in texture and electric in its bright, mouthwatering citricity. White peach syrup, quince preserves, and grapefruit mingle with salted caramel, nut pastes, as well as liqueur-like floral and herbal essences at distilled concentration for which the analogy to Chartreuse is almost insultingly inadequate, against a subtle but insistent background of wet stone, generating a finish whose gorgeously layered, oscillating complexity as well as sheer persistence left my mouth agape and my salivary glands pumping. The purity, levity, and vibrancy on display here are nearly beyond belief."

Molitor Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Three Star 2011 - David Schildknecht


If you ever want more you can always create your own here. The best one I got was "Good and zealous Barbera. Aromas of sage, attractive roasted vegetables and aggressive strawberry jam. Drink now through Second Tuesday of the Month."


Written by: Simon Robins

Simon Robins is somewhat of a wine expert, not just in the liquid, but planning and analysis, logistics and operations management - having spent eight years working for the UK's largest wine mail order company. 


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