I had my mid-term in New World Wine Regions this week, a two-hour test of both noggin and nose: one half written, the other half tasted.
I've never been good with memorization (or studying, for that matter ... I didn't crack the textbook open until Saturday night) so dates, details and keywords tend not to stick with me for long. Fortunately, I think I remembered just enough to squeak through the written portion, leaving me to flex my olfactory muscles in the tasting.
Three whites, three reds. When I came in and looked at the glasses, they all looked the same. In the back of my head I wondered, have they ever tried to pull a fast one on students and poured the same wine in each glass, just for shits and giggles? A quick poke of the nose into each concluded that no, they were definitely not the same wine. But if I was the instructor ... wouldn't that be fun?
I worked my way through each wine, mentally ticking off the laundry list of typical aromas and flavours associated with each varietal, and made a stab at what I thought they might be. I figure you can't really mark anything "wrong" when it comes to tasting notes. How can you tell someone it's not leather they're smelling, it's canned green beans, when clearly they believe it's the former? Some people have stronger noses than others, or have sharp, vivid memories attached to certain aromas that make it easier to identify what's coming out of the glass. Can you honestly penalize someone for that?
Of course not. The object here (and with most of my tasting experiences so far) is to be as descriptive as possible, to touch on all the different aspects of a wine: appearance, nose, palate, mouthfeel, finish. If you're thorough, you're giving your potential client that much more to work with. Get them salivating for a steak as you describe a big, peppery cab sauv, or puckering their lips because they can practically taste the lemon zest in that sauvignon blanc, you've written your review so well.
At least, that's how I hope she marks it ... (gulp)