The Naughty List

Tasting notes not always so nice

By Hilary Berg

It is quite normal to be both naughty and nice. Santa knows this. We can’t be angels all the time, right?

Scrolling through Instagram the other day, I found a pertinent post, showing a mnemonic device for THINKing before we speak. Is it true? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind?

OK, now for the confession: Over the last few years, I’ve been keeping a list of the worst descriptions from our Cellar Selects wine tastings. The criteria? They are so bad, they’re good — another reminder to Mr. Claus.

Here are some of the stinky gems, starting with food: “rancid croutons;” “refried rice” — the taster was obviously tipsy on that one — “Chicken of the Sea,” “sandwich spread,” “boiled wiener” and “cotton candy with a hint of urine, like the state fair.”

Some notes clearly veer off, totaling palates in the process: “burned-out clutch,” “a recently cleaned truck stop bathroom,” “urinal cake” — from said bathroom — “fermented trash,” “Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil SPF 0,” “new carpet” and “Pup-Peroni sticks” — my dog-crazed friend, Desiree, would have tasted it immediately.

Esoteric notes also make the list: “chauvinism” and “Turbulence on a flight from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia is better than this flight.” Ouch!

Now, if I apply THINK to what I just admitted, I believe I’m still mostly in the “right.”

Is it true? I tasted and immediately spit every single one of these wines, not to mention, I have witnesses.

Is it helpful? Writing notes helps jog the memory and warm up the creative juices.

Is it inspiring? I’ll admit, it is exhilarating when a taster comes up with such an accurate description.

Is it necessary? It is essential to discuss the good and the bad when evaluating wines.

Is it kind? Not really. But it doesn’t hurt anyone, either. We taste blind, so at the time the notes are made, we don’t know which winery has made the offense. And we never publish a bad review. I will say, no winery is immune to mistakes in the bottle. It happens to the best of them, really.

So, is Santa going to visit my house this year?

For my son, absolutely.

For me? I hope so. And when he gets here, a glass of the good stuff (see pages 12 and 13) will be waiting.

Happy holidays, everyone!

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