Monday, January 31, 2011

How do I taste the samples sent for my attention

How do I taste the samples sent for my attention

There is not a single week that past to somebody asked me how I score and review the wine samples!

I start by grouping in vintages, regions, districts and wards, styles where applicable or grape variety, all wines are wrapped or encased in a "black sock" with foil or bottom of screw cap removed, by a designated person and using 100 points scoring system.

I evaluate each wine into 11 categories broken down in 5 parts, namely the colour, Intensity, Palate weight, freshness and cellaring potential.
A (Maximum of 5 points), is given on colour, aromatic intensity or grape variety textbook profile (Maximum 8 points), Complexity and layers of personality (Maximum of 4 points) and sensory cleanliness (Maximum of 3 points)

Onto the palate, I first rate the intensity, freshness, vibrancy combined with purity of fruit (Maximum of 10 Points) followed by the acidity level, question I asked is ? is it again fresh, natural grape acid a key factor where possible, I tend to mark down heavily, wines showing clumsy handling of added acidification such as tartaric acid, which gives a disjointed mouthfeel and confected sourness,here a (maximum of 5 points), a rating of 3 or 3.5 out of 5 is considered exceptional from a South African perspective, followed by the balance of the wine,namely is the acid, residual sugar, alcohol and where applicable (red) the ripeness of the tannin (Is it green, ripe, over extracted or added tannin?) (Maximum of 3 points) followed another check of cleanliness, as sometime a wine can be "perceived" as technically clean on the nose, but yet the palate texture can be also clumsy marred by either over extraction, bitterness due to over zealous pressing or too much punch down causing a perception of "bruising" or some other faults such as VA, sourness, musty character from cork, from an early spoilage inhibitor, here a (Maximum of 2 points is given)
The last 3 areas I looked at are Intensity of palate texture (Maximum of 4 points) followed by lingering intensity (Maximum of 3 points) and last but not least it's cellaring aptitude a (maximum of 8+ points) break down as follows:

1 to 3 years potential = 1 point
4 years = 1.5 points
5 years = 2 points
6 to 7 years = 2.5 points
8 years = 3 points
8+ years = 3+ points
After the initial tasting about 4 to 6 minute per wine (I am a slow taster, as I believe any wine need to be given time to be fully dissected) I reevaluate the wines for as long as it's require if it has a score of 82 and above and do this process until the wine starts to oxidise, ther I tally the score work out an average and give it an estimated life / cellaring span.

Wines receiving less than 80 points are seldom retasted, as what is the point? They are mediocrity in their own right, precious tasting time is too precious to be wasted on below average wine.

I have come up with some fantastic selection in the last 5 years, since employing my own devised 100 Point scoring system representing a buying strategy and listings philosophy where every wine is treated fairly and with no influence of branding whatsoever, what count for me is what is inside the bottles, rather than what's is on the label, a good Sommelier will laways sell a bottle irrespective of it's a fashionable label or yet to be discovered jems that is fit for listing on any 5 star plus hotel wine list, where good food and great wines are eponymous of good living.

I try to seek wines representing the very best of South Africa, calibrating them against International benchmark and minimum criteria for listings is a 85 Points