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Avalanche Of Tasting Notes

Lots of tasting to report on today. My report on Schloss Lieser is up and running on World Of Fine Wines, with part-2 appearing today, they tell me. And here’s my notes on Weingut Künstler, and the sometimes remarkable surprises I encountered.


Lieser sent me 24 wines, and Künstler 18. To taste that many wines takes a good week if I do it right, by which I mean, give the wines time, taste them repeatedly, and approach my first impressions agnostically.



A decent professional taster learns that proceeding on her first impressions is sustainably accurate within the self-contained universe of first-impression, which is a language of its own. It’s not a dialect, not a syntax; it’s an actual language that doesn’t have words for the impressions one can only form through deliberation. It’s what we mean when we say “professional,” and it’s valid in its own context. I did it for 35 years. It was inimical to my temperament but I adapted as a matter of necessity.


I don’t actually change my mind very often when I re-taste a wine open for 4-5 days. I’m actually only altering a judgment maybe 5% of the time. I see my first note as a hypothesis, and I look to subsequent tastings to affirm it, to modify it, to deepen it, and sometimes to challenge it and change it. I share that process with you if I find it illuminating, but it isn’t always.


Until I started doing this for the website, my readers had almost never read a negative note from me, though I wrote lots of them. As a merchant my task was to cull the duds and offer you the best stuff, so all those notes were praises. In my books I wrote about important and beautiful wines. And I brought that assumption to the task at hand, thinking I’d only report on the wines I liked. But eventually I concluded that doing so was actually not very interesting, and was disrespectful to the producers. They get a lot of smoke blown at them, a lot of “brilliant, chef!” stuff, and if I may say so, I think they might prefer a humane, discerning and reasonable approach that may not be relentlessly positive. It seems like a prerequisite for genuine collegiality.


That said, before I run a negative note I spend quite a bit of time trying to talk myself out of it. I’m so touched at how sweetly they sent samples to me. But if I pull punches I’m useless to them, to you, and finally to myself.

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