Do You Take Wine Notes? (Giveaway! 33 Bottles of Wine Pocket Notebook Edition)

Vinted on April 26, 2010 binned in giveaways, wine products

Well… do ya?

We’ve got another nifty giveaway this week (this time courtesy of Scout Books) to help stimulate some stimulating conversation about taking detailed wine tasting notes.

The thing is, I don’t do it.

I know.  I suck.

Seriously, though, I don’t take copious notes when it comes to tasting wine.  At massive tastings such as Premiere Napa Valley I certainly do take notes, because otherwise it would be hopeless – but those notes certainly aren’t detailed, and usually are just enough text to jar my memory, where the real tasting notes are kept.

In similar fashion, I don’t keep a very good written record of what’s in my cellar (personal or wine samples), tough I’d argue that the record in my brain is pretty damn good.

Fallible?  Certainly, but it doesn’t seem to be slowing things down on so I’ve no plans to change it.  But that doesn’t mean that I advocate anyone else mimicking my behavior; in fact, I preach just the opposite, I’ve spent a lot of time studying systematic approaches to wine tasting, and I think it’s essential for those learning about wine to record detailed thoughts on their experiences. I just don’t do it myself, in the same way that my band can play successful gigs without practicing – there comes a time when you get comfortable enough that you don’t need to do those things as often (though of course you still benefit from doing them!).

Which is where tools like Scout’s 33 Bottles of Wine come in – and we’re giving away a three pack ($12 value) of their way-cool tasting journal

33 bottles offers an interesting take on the wine tasting note, by starting with the obligatory Winery, Vintage, Tasting Note section but adding a starred rating system and (more ingeniously) visual aids to indicate color intensity, and a flavor wheel for capturing the aromas and tastes that you experience when trying a wine (see inset pic below – click to embiggen).

The flavor wheel of course runs the risk of limiting your choices slightly, but you can always write-in anything that isn’t there, and I find these more helpful than harmful in that they often help me identify taste descriptors that are alluding me when my nose is in the glass.

Anyway, Scout’s products are printed on recycled paper and use soy-based inks, and in the case of 33 bottles the ink contains a small amount of wine (seriously) for an additional coolness factor.

Here’s how YOU can win the way-cool 33 bottles notebook three-pack:

Leave a comment and answer the question, Do you take tasting notes (and why / why not)? In one week, I will randomly select a winner from the commenters using a super-secret process that involves my dog. Good luck!







  • Richard Scholtz

    It's easier for me to take notes at home, because there's fewer distractions, and I can really hone in on what I'm tasting. When I'm at a tasting at a bar or an event, there's more noise, more distractions, and, most importantly, more influence from comments from those around me. It makes it really difficult to be objective in that type of setting. Plus, after drinking 4-5 glasses of wine, an average wine begins to taste really good.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Richard – you drink enough, and you might even start liking Retsina. OK, maybe not. :-)

  • @sfru

    I don't usually take notes, I try to remember key descriptors to make a sense memory. Obviously this doesn't work for over 4-5 wines, but it helps me for my wine cellar.

    • 1WineDude

      SFRU – I just don't trust myself that much :-).

  • Amanda Maynard

    I don't take as many notes as I should. I've been taking minimal notes using the Drync iPhone app, but I should really be detailing more so when I go back to those wines, I have a fuller picture of what I once thought. I guess if I had this nifty little notebook, I wouldn't have an excuse not to! Even if I don't win, I really need to buy one, though. So much to keep straight.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Amanda – interesting how many folks use the iPhone for this. Seems like a natural thing to do, except for the possibility of spilling wine on your iPhone :-).

  • Jennifer

    Hmm… Retsina? I'm pretty sure no matter how many glasses I had prior – I will never enjoy Retsina! To the original subject – I am a horrible note taker at professional events (in France) and just like you said in your article, I manage to get just enough down to jar my memory and to keep track of the "winners". At home or elsewhere though, I like to try and take more structured notes and I find that helps me to go faster and make better evaluations when I am at wine fairs and have hundreds of wines staring back at me! I do think that having some basic fundamentals (WSET system for me) make it a lot easier but when you can't take detailed notes my 3 strongest impressions about a wine (whether they are flavor, quality, body, or acidity related etc) make a quick blueprint.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Jennifer – one thing I hadn't mentioned, but I think is becoming essential for me in terms of those massive tasting events, is identification of wine faults. Makes a **huge** difference for proper evaluation. Cheers!

  • @stevepaulo

    I do take notes! It would be difficult to review as many wines as I do on Notes From The Cellar without dong so. Currently, I use Evernote, usually via the iPhone app, to jot down thoughts on a wine's color, nose, and palate, and then write a detailed review later based on those notes. I thnk my system produces results I like, but this notebook looks awesome!

    • Brian

      Of course you take notes Steve! otherwise your blog would just be "from the cellar" and that just sounds funny!


    • 1WineDude

      Steve, you are Mr. High Tech. Now you need an iPad when browsing the cellar… ;-)

  • John Cesano

    I have a notebook for taking notes, but for impromptu tastings I will write on anything. At some media events, I write on the promotional materials provided. I attended some event tastings, ZAP, Dark & Delicious, Passion for Pinot, where without my notes I would have been unable to write a decent recap. Having a notebook to pull out when I found myself sitting with Ravenswood's Joel Peterson allowed me to use quotes of Joel's own words when I wrote a subsequent article. My current notebook is running out of unused pages, so if I win, well, the dude provides. Abides too.

    • 1WineDude

      John – I do the EXACT same thing. I've even used napkins!

      And as for the Lebowksi quotes – those are ALWAYS welcome here. Cheers!

  • Brian

    I have never taken serious notes on wines I've tasted. I've been thinking about taking a class at our local community college on wine judging. The instructor is the head dude for the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition so I'm pretty sure he knows what's going on!

    Anyhow, I may pick me up a copy of this to help guide my future tastings, I just had a wine tasting adventure last weekend and there were a few places where after tasting 6 or 7 different wines they all blur together (not because of the booze, I promise ;-)).


  • Susan B.

    I do keep a journal of the wines I drink, along with tasting notes. I do it so that I can have some memory recorded of the wine I drank. I only do it for wines I buy at home, not ones I have in a restaurant or taste at a wine store. I use the tasting note format that I got when I took a class at the Tasting World last year, although trying to figure out how the wine's aroma or flavor even looking at a list of possibilities is still not easy for me.

    • 1WineDude

      Just keep at it – eventually you'll find descriptors that work for you.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Susan – it's tough to do tasting notes at social events, like dining out. I do it anyway, because I don't care what people think of me sometimes :-).

  • Chris

    I never used to take notes, but I started tto recently – just to remember particulars. I do feel like a bit of a stuck up poser sometimes, so I only do it if I am alone with the staff at the winery or at home. It helps a bit though, especially when you look back at it a few weeks later. For example, I am not much of a fan of Rose, but I tasted one a week or so back and made a few scribbles on it and yesterday some one asked me for a reomendation on a rose… So it has come in handy – well once at least :-)

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Chris – unfortunately, that stigma is still prevalent. But there's no way around it I think, if you really want to get to know your wine in terms of what you like and don't like, etc. Personally, I just forget about the perception and try to jot the notes down quickly so that the exercise doesn't interfere too much with the social flow of the gathering.

      • Chris

        Yes I really shouldn't worry about it… I guess being asked for "recommendations" shows I know what I am talking about, sometimes anyway.

  • @Melissajmuller

    I do! And if I'm not too buzzed I can even read my handwriting!

    • 1WineDude

      HA! Melissa, funnily enough I am JUST NOW going through my tasting notes from an event this weekend and I've hit a sentence that I cannot decipher! :-)

  • Jeff

    At home when trying a new bottle? Definitely taking notes. At a tasting? Well, the effort is made until I can't read my own writing anymore, then the notes go out the window.

    • 1WineDude

      Jeff – ha! Excellent. I often find myself in the same state…

  • @nectarwine

    My notes consist of general chicken scratch on my notepad. I'm rarely tasting through more than three at time. So far memory has been able to keep up. Something like this could be helpful during a day of wine tasting or at tasting events.


    Send me my swag ;)

    • 1WineDude

      Hey Josh – well, we'll have to see if you are the lucky winner! :-)

  • Pinot Seller

    I started carrying one of those little black notebooks in my purse for wine notes, books I want to read, restaurants I want to remember…and it's a habit now. Used to do it on my phone, but lost the data too many times. It seems to work, and I can look up what wine regions I enjoy, what vintages were disappointing, etc. Works for me!

    • 1WineDude

      Great idea on the books / restaurants / wines… I'd throw movies into that list as well. Might have to start doing that one myself!

  • Lesley

    I also learned the systematic approach to wine tasting through a WSET course and find it useful for writing tasting notes. I don't write tasting notes as often as I should (it's definitely harder at a bar or in a restaurant), but I try to do it when I think of it. Usually I just scribble some notes of any old scrap of paper and later transfer it to my laptop, usually in the form of a blog entry. I have to say those Scout tasting journals look quite cool though – that would save me from scribbling on napkins and might force my notes to be a little more systematic. Thanks for the tip!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Lesley – I've got a post in the works about the pros/cons of the WSET approach, actually…

  • Josh

    At home, work or a winery my girlfriend and I always take out little black tasting book. If we are out and about or at a large wine tasting, we usually don't. Unless it's something wild and awesome or it's interesting, then I usually snap a photo of the bottle or wine list with my phone and scribble a few key words about it. That's how we taste in 2k10.

  • 1WineDude

    Thanks, Josh – *somebody's* gotta drag us into the modern age, right? :-)

  • Mark

    I don't take notes. I seem to have inherited from my father an ability to remember in detail pretty much every meal and drink I've ever had. Seriously.

  • 1WineDude

    Lucky devil!

    Of course, now I have the urge to test this ability of yours, but no way to confirm if you're telling the truth unless we dine together and you open a bottle of `82 Latour…

  • Craig

    I take notes on occasion but always at home. I find it too distracting while at an event or at the cellar. But at home I can think about what it is that I’m experiencing, critique and enjoy or dump what is in the glass. I have found that in a lot of instances I will get totally different set of sensory experiences by opening and tasting a bottle on one night and then revisiting it again on the next night. I know this is no great news to most, but I love point this out to friends at tastings that I set up. I will open a couple of wines the night before a tasting and then open the same wines the night of the tasting and then taste them side by side to show this phenomenon to friends and aquaintances.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Craig. Lots of reasons for those differences – of course the wines can change a bit (or a lot) during that time, but then so do we!

  • Anne

    I do take notes, but not in a specific notebook at this time. At large tastings I mostly take notes on the tasting list or material from the winery. I would like to start to have a central place to keep notes though and these notebooks look great!

  • Paul "Hat" Kiernan

    I usually take notes as I am waist deep in WSET Diploma study right now. I used to put the notes on my blog but most readers found them boring, so now I mostly just write bizarre posts and random pictures. I'm happy with the results but the free samples will probably dry up soon :(

  • 1WineDude

    Thanks, Anne!

  • 1WineDude

    HA! Pat – that is AWESOME! :-)

  • Lindi Kauer

    I do usually take notes as well… keeping them all in the same place has proven difficult. I recently got a moleskin, but I have ended up using it for all sorts of wine information e.g. taking notes in the Introductory Sommelier class I recently took. Which means there is a lot of tasting notes on American wines, and then some information about which varietals are grown where in Bordeaux.

  • Jason

    I take notes that become decreasingly lucid as the day grows old.

  • 1WineDude

    Hey Lindi – I've got the moleskin as well, but it's just so darned *small* that I end up using tons of the pages.

  • 1WineDude

    Jason – **I** regularly become decreasingly lucid as the day grows old! :)

  • 1WineDude

    Ed – that moleskin I mentioned in the comment above; it's the one from the C. Donatiello tasting room!

  • kleverkira

    I try to remember to take wine notes, but only really do it when I'm drinking at home. I use a journal that was given to me at an internship. I'd love to win a better system!

    • 1WineDude

      Well kleverkira – you're officially in the running :-).

    • 1WineDude

      Well kleverkira – you're officially in the running :-).

  • Sherman

    Wine without notes — kinda like sex with your eyes closed in a dark room. You remember enjoying it, but the details are a bit hazy;)

    I take copious notes (re: wine, anyway) and I spit 95% of what I'm tasting. As being ITB ("in the biz"), it's a necessity when you have a Monday sales meeting to evaluate potential new wines (12-20 candidates), then hit a few accounts and taste 3-4 wines with each account, then go to a tasting group meeting that evening (another 8-12 wines).

    Yes, I have a notebook with me at all times that wine might be involved and I keep the notes in manila folders, cross-referenced for ease of referral and retrieval at a later date; but then, I'm a Virgo — go figure!

    • 1WineDude

      Sherman – BEST analogy on tasting notes, EVER! :)

  • Cathy B

    I have just started a little notebook for the wine labels fm bottles I prefer. But as you know this can be a daunting task to remove the labels without breaking them. When my friend recently asked me about the labels and what about each wine I loved, I only remembered a bit about eachone…hence… definite need to take better notes now… thiese journals would be awesome… and really help during wine reviews that I do sometimes.

  • 1WineDude

    GREAT way to learn wine brands that you like, Cathy. Of course, it's a major pain in the ass to remove those labels…

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