The DIY Wine Reviewer

A highlight on my recent trip to Rioja was a visit to state-of-the-art Bodegas Baigorri in Rioja Alavesa.   It was certainly a memorable experience.   The highpoint of the afternoon featured a sumptuous four course lunch paired with a selection of their wines.   I recall noting that the majority of them were very good.


One of the wines, a 2004 Rioja Crianza, has just arrived in our stores this week.  Eager to see if it lived up to my recollections, I took a bottle home to try the other night to compare with my tasting notes.

First a little background.  As a matter of habit, I keep a pocket-sized black notebook with me at all times to record tasting notes.  To be honest, what I jot down as an entry in this “journal” would never be confused with the flowery prose that constitutes the typical professional wine review a la the Wine Spectator or Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

More to the point, what I often set down with pen to paper is a staccato of short, terse, one or two word descriptions that have more in common with Morse code than a wine critique.   Sort of like boiling the whole wine tasting exercise into wine-speak terminology but at the subatomic level.   I often get a good-natured razzing from my colleagues in our wine department for it.  I’m the guy they call on when they need a wine “summed up” in six words or less.

Case in point, here’s the entry from my notebook:

Baigorri Crianza 2004: Ruby, Blackberry, Bing Cherry, Spice-box, Herb, Round, Medium, Integrated, Long, 100% Temp, ****

Here’s a translation.  Ruby colored wine, with a blackberry bouquet and black cherry, cardamom spice and herb notes on the palate, a wine with a silky round texture, a medium body with well integrated tannins and a long finish.  Grape Varieties: 100% Tempranillo.  Recommended.

And how’s the wine the second time around?  In a word, delicious!

In defense of my nomenclature, it’s short, accurate, saves paper and ink, and fits real well into a pocket-sized black notebook stuffed with receipts, business cards and other scraps of paper.  One of these days I’ll break down and get one those fancy organizer things.

BTW, I’m not the only “wine reviewer” that thought highly of this wine.  Jay Miller of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gave it a 90 point rating (WA Issue #175 Feb 2008).

(Review furnished upon request)   🙂

Jim Greeley

Wine Supervisor SW Florida

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