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Good friend Doug Frost is the second among only four people in the world to have passed both the Master Sommelier and Master of Wine exams.  Author of several books, including “Uncorking Wine,” “On Wine,” and “Far From Ordinary: The Spanish Wine Guide,” he is also host of Check Please!, a weekly public TV show filmed in Kansas City and the wine and spirits consultant for United Airlines worldwide. He is a founding member of the spirits and cocktail educational organization, BAR, (Beverage Alcohol Resource). Cheers magazine selected BAR and its founders as Innovators of the Year for 2007, and Frost as Beverage Innovator of the Year 2009. He runs two wine competitions, the Mid-American Wine Competition and the Jefferson Cup Invitational, now in its fourteenth year and judges in more than a dozen other competitions. In his spare time Doug listens to his massive weird music collection and continues to try to raise two (adult) daughters.

Doug and I tasted together in June of 2012 and we used the 2009 Roger Sabon Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Riedel Vinum Zinfandel/Chianti Classico glasses.

Overall Tasting Goals

TG: When you are tasting what are you trying to accomplish?

DF: It depends on the client for whom I’m tasting. The context changes per client. In tasting this wine I’m trying to decide if it’s delicious, how well made it is, what sort of ageability it has, and for whom is this wine made.

TG: By that you mean …

DF: Who is the best customer for this wine?

TG: If the context changes, if you’re just going to pick up a glass of wine and enjoy it what are your goals then?

DF: It might be food it might be mood as in what style am I in the mood for.  There can be times where a wine is perfectly well made and even delicious but I’m not in the mood and really don’t give a damn about it.

TG: What’s necessary for you, in terms of environment and equipment, to have a good tasting experience?

DF: Spit cup! (One’s missing from the table) Smell free and smoke free and not much other than that.  But I really do have to spit to concentrate.

TG: Is it more important for you to spit in order to assess vs. having a sip?

DF: It doesn’t work as well for me.  It’s the way I’m going to assess texture and volume, the structure.

TG: And you do that better by spitting?

DF: No, I need to get a big mouthful and am just not in the habit of swallowing the wine at any hour much less this hour (9:00 am).  It’s certainly part of the concentration process.  It helps to provide a more concentrated environment, but I really have to mix a lot of wine with saliva in my mouth and you really can’t do that with sips.

TG: What else in terms of equipment do you need?

DF: Some kind of white background that I can look at the wine against; good lighting.

TG: What about glassware?

DF: I’ll use glasses like these on occasion (Riedel Vinum Chianti Classico/Sangiovese), but most of the time I use the INAO because it’s a pretty cruel glass.

Sight

TG: When you look at a wine, what are you trying to assess?

DF: I really just want to see its youthfulness, the volume, how much alcohol it has, how much extract it has, and what the condition of maturity is at this point. My mentality is that I’m always looking at the rim first and then my eyes will linger down into the bowl to see how much color differentiation there is.  With this wine there’s some pretty significant color differentiation, and there’s a watery meniscus and a pink rim to it.  So this wine is showing a bit of age to the coloring and it looks like it has a lot of alcohol volume and extract volume to it.

TG: So if I were you, how would I know how to compare the color in this wine to other wines I’ve tasted before? Is there some way that you bring up colors of previous wines to compare?

DF: I think it’s a matter of trying to decide what colors are in front of me.  Is there some purple in the glass?  In this wine yes, so there would appear to be some hint of a hot climate.  I’m looking at a series of colors as wine shows a color gradation down into the bowl.  I’m looking to see how well can I see through the bowl and with this wine there’s quite a bit of extract;  but the quality of the colors and the value of the colors and what that means in terms of outcome.

TG: If I had to be you, how would you compare that to previous wines in terms of memory?

DF: Just intellectually, I’m not carrying images of other wines in my head when I do this.

TG: How do you know?

DF: I’m just not aware of that and that’s not what I’m trying to do.  I’m just looking at a sheet of color and trying to decide what that sheet of color is.  It’s like looking at a color chart.

TG: So is there an actual chart you see?

DF: No, I really don’t.  I just look at what I would regard as a color chart like you would do when you select a font color.  I look at art a lot so I look at colors so I’m comfortable staring at colors and calling them by name.

TG: Practically everyone I’ve spoken to has some kind of visual device that they compare colors to.  Do you use anything like that?

DF: I cannot say that that is happening with me because there are multiple colors.  It’s not really like that for me.  But I’m also not real clue into color the way some people are.

TG: So how do you know when you’re done looking at a wine?

DF: When I’ve been able to draw conclusions; in this wine there’s a pretty significant amount of extract and alcohol and it looks like warmish climate; when I can draw conclusions of what I think about the wine, how young it is and what climate it is, of what grape and what extract.

TG: Great. Could you actually demonstrate how you look at wine?

DF: White background, tip the glass all the way over and get the wine almost to a 45 degree angle, get some light somewhere so I can see it.

Nose

TG: What are your goals when you smell wine?

DF: I have a set of Master Sommelier familiar goals that I take a look at. Other than that I’m just seeing if anything else feels familiar.  I’m very much of the training.

TG: So you’re trying to assess the wine for quality …

DF: Quality, character, various categories of fruit, herbs and all those things.  I’m looking at all those categories.

TG: How do you know you’ve accomplished that?  How do you do that?

DF: As long as I’ve filled all those boxes I’m content.  Like everybody else I’m looking for some kind of conclusion.  I’m also trying to figure out which of those boxes is important to me.  Then I’ll spend a lot of time talking about that because it’s something I’m hanging my hat on.

TG: Is that something like an initial impression or is it something you get as you progress through the wine?

DF: It could be either one.  I would love it to be an initial impression but half the times it’s not.

TG: When you smell the wine, in terms of the grid, is it something you see and periodically check in with?

DF: Sometimes I’ll imagine it as it is on the slide.  Other times it’s just dialogue.  I know in my mind what I’m supposed to do because the slides don’t exactly sync up with where I want to go.

TG: So how do you do that?

DF: It’s just like saying the rosary: do flowers and then do spices. That’s how you do it?

TG: OK but I’m trying to figure out how you do that.  So if you smell this wine what is the first thing you check for?

DF: Whatever it smells like, in other words that first impression. The first thing I’m looking for is fruit and then probably flowers.  But that’s completely contextual as I was drinking Riesling last night.  Had I been drinking Bordeaux I wouldn’t have been looking for flowers.

TG: I’m just trying to get back to your seeing slides.  How do you do that?

DF: Sometimes I remember the slides as they set up on the screen.  But most of the time I’m just doing it again, like saying the rosary, almost automatically.

TG: So if I was you, where would I see the slides?

DF: Not anywhere particularly, I just go into a memory; I just remember what that slide looks like.  The only thing that would perhaps be interesting to you is that the slide I’m looking at is just as likely to be an overhead as it is anything else (laughs).  It’s old school.

TG: OK, so I’m watching your eyes when you’re talking about the slides and they go pretty consistently in three places, here , here and here (the positions are literally slightly left, center and slightly right in front of his face).  Where are you looking?

DF: I think I told you that one of my daughters has said since she was six years old, “watch me, I’m Dad drinking wine.” And her eyes go back and forth like mine.

TG: True because you’re processing a lot of different things. Back to the overheads.  Are they out in front? To the sides?  Where are they?

DF: Again it’s a particular memory and it might well be just the screen in front of me.  I’m so used to looking at the screen.  But it’s not consistent.  Most of the time I wouldn’t need to draw on it because I would just go in a particular order.

TG: It almost sounds like it’s auditory as well.  Are you saying things to yourself?

DF: No, it’s not auditory.

TG: As you smell the wine what do you do?  Your eyes consistently go several places in rapid succession.  But for today it would be great just to pick out a specific fruit or other element in the wine and try figure out how you do it.

DF: My eyes do go back and forth but they settle in once I get something.  The first thing is savory.

TG: Savory such as …

DF: Right now the wine is minty, basil and wet and dried leaves—some sort of herbal origin.

TG: If I had to be you, how would I do that? How do you know you’re smelling those things? What do you see?

DF: I’ll try but I really don’t get any particular images.  I did read your article and thought about it but images is not what I’m working from.

TG: I think you probably do it but at micro-speed.  Your eye movements are the fastest of anyone I’ve ever seen.  So if we can just slow one of them down I would be curious to see what’s there.

DF: The whole thing for me, even now as I think about the fruit in the wine I didn’t envision a black cherry.  I’m more likely to see the label on a can or jar when I try to picture black cherries.  I don’t necessarily see a black cherry.

TG: So there’s a label?

DF: Well as I call it up I can do that but I’m not sure that’s how I’m associating aroma.  But to your point, I don’t know that.

TG: But if I ask you, for instance, what does a tangerine smell like?  What do you do?  Do you see the color orange?

DG: Yes, definitely.

TG: Do you see a picture of the tangerine?

DF: Eventually. Let’s switch it out.  For a blueberry it’s not very strong recall, I’m more likely to … It’s certainly the fruit I’m trying to imagine but it’s more like the color or a slice of that fruit.  I’m trying to go through the process now in my mind to get an idea of what the process looks like.  As I think about pineapple I’m more likely to think about sliced pineapple then a whole fresh pineapple—so I’m not looking at a whole pineapple.

TG: To a great extent though the content is not really that important.  You do seem to bring something up.

DF: Yes, sure.

TG: So with the canned or sliced pineapple, if you get that can you show me where it is?

DF: It’s pretty much right in front of me.

TG: 2D or 3D picture?

DF: It’s three dimensional.

TG: So is this framed or just sitting there in space?

DF: I’m switching out fruit now and thinking about blueberries.  It’s right in front of me and I’m looking at a close up of a blueberry.

TG: So what happens if you take the close up of the blueberry and move it right up in front of your face?  Does the intensity increase?

DF: No, same.

TG: What happens if make the image tiny?

DF: The whole process doesn’t make any sense to me.  Make what tiny? I know what you’re saying but …

TG: OK so make it black and white.  Take the color out of it.

DF: It doesn’t have aroma then.

TG: OK, at least we know that.  What happens if you make the blueberry enormous? Like a billboard.

DF: Again, that doesn’t make any sense to me.  In other words, the image I’m working on doesn’t change shape, it’s the same size.

TG: Can you change the shape?

DF: That would be something different.

TG: Doug, make it a giant blueberry.  What happens? Do the aromas get stronger or weaker?

DF: I understand, I’m just trying to give you legitimate answers.  It doesn’t change.  I suppose if we’re making it really big it becomes more two dimensional and not real.

TG: I want to go back to the idea of picking out something in the glass and how you know it’s not something else.  Is there a system where you compare it to other things?  I’m still trying to figure out your eye movements.  I have to tell you that your eyes just go nuts when you’re smelling. Your eyes are constantly going back and forth seeing and comparing different things.

DF: (laughs) I don’t know.  But certainly I was never aware of the eye movements until my daughter starting mocking it about eighteen years ago.

TG: But how could you possibly be aware of it?

DF: Because one is self-conscious at time when you taste with other people.  So maybe I had been aware of it but not really until my daughter pointed it out.

TG: Right and that’s also part of how you think in terms of eye accessing cues.  Your eyes move to help access parts of your brain and your memory. Go ahead and smell the wine and let me know what you pick up.

DF: It’s definitely funky.  What is that?  There’s also something that like olive paste mixed with black cherry goop and then there’s that savory element too.

TG: What’s that right there?  That’s the first time you’ve held your eyes in one place for longer than a few seconds.

DF: Right.  I’m trying to sort it out, focus on the wine and now how I’m actually doing it.

TG: Most people have a starting eye position and it seems like you have a starting sequence of about three different positions in rapid succession. Right here, here and here.  But I’m just trying to figure out what you do.  How do you figure out what things are?  If you put your nose in the glass, how do you know it’s blackberry and not a garage door?  If I had to be you, how would I do it?

DF: Well, I’m not sure and this wine is a bit funky.  I’ll have to work harder to dig more out of it.  So, how many people do you taste with that taste with their eyes closed?

TG: Not many, but you can still watch their eyes move with their eyes closed.

DF: Just wondered.

TG: I will tell you that almost everyone looks down when they smell wine because that’s where most of us look when we talk to ourselves.  But getting back on track, let’s see if we can’t figure out more. It sounds like since we’ve been trained, you go off the grid.

DF: Right.

TG: So how do you see the grid? How do you know you haven’t forgotten anything?

DF: It’s a little bit oral.

TG: Are you talking to yourself?

DF: It’s an audible cue because I’ve said it to myself.

TG: So you’re internally saying, what about fruit, what about earth, etc.

DF: Right.  With red wines I typically have to force myself to floral so at some point when I’ve stopped receiving information, or believing that I’ve stopped receiving new information that is important, I’ll say, “come one, let’s get on the grid.” So Somewhere in my brain I’ve made that mental command.

TG: so once you’ve received the information, does it go somewhere so you don’t worry about it but still know it’s there?

DF: No, I try to capture it in some way.  I’ll be taking notes and writing but instead I’m trying to mentally recall this.  It’s almost as if it’s a Scrabble board and I put black cherry over here.

TG: OK so not to be a pain in the ass, but when you say “put black cherry over here,” what do you mean by that?

DF: I put the word black cherry over here (motions chest high to the left).  But not an image.

TG: Interesting, so you deal with images of words and maybe not the actual thing you’re smelling.

DF: Right.  I chalk it up again to being a city boy and seeing a package of black cherries and not a black cherry.

TG: But there sounds like a system where if you smell something you generate a word that represents whatever it is.

DF: Yes and I can shift the words off to the left and right as I get new information.

TG: That’s a really interesting system—it sounds as if the words hang around to the left and right of your internal field.  So you can look at them again when you go to make a conclusion or to just think about the wine.  True?

DF: Right but it’s very much like speaking, as it were, like when you’re trying to give a talk and you’re trying to remember to talk about this, this and this.

TG: So it’s like a check list.

DF: Right. To me it’s a very similar experience where I have to put the black cherry over here so I remember to say it.

TG: But it also sounds like the images of whatever you smell then become words.  Is that how it works?

DF: They’re very much words.

TG: Which is why when I talk about images it sounds like Martian to you?

DF: (Laughs) Yes, it’s fairly Martian to me although color even though it is a real concept just doesn’t work that well for me.  I honestly think it’s because I have a very pedantic notion of what smells are.  They’re still kind of new to me.

TG: Pedantic meaning …

DF: That I’ll smell it, try to figure out what it is, give it a name and put it over here (motions to the left with his left hand about chest high).  I have to dig deeper before I’ll find some kind of image.  But the words are first.  (Pauses).  But you know they couldn’t all possibly be words.  Some are words and some are images.

TG: I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all images initially and then they turned into words–and that’s your system for finding things.

DF: Possibly.

TG: Because maybe seeing the word triggers something else.

DF: Seeing the word is definitely part of the process.  I was thinking about the olive note in the wine and probably briefly saw some olive tapenade.  I wasn’t going to say tapenade but then it made me think of ground up olives.  Then that turns into the words black olives.

TG: And if I wanted to be really picky about it, when you see the image of black olives, is it close, far away?  Where is it? Does the locating have to do with how strong the intensity is?

DF: I can’t generate any truthful answer to that.  For me I’m too busy trying to figure out what these other funky smells in the glass are.  There’s some kind of swamp gas going on here.

TG: I’m not sure why I picked a Rhone wine as both of these have been funky (note the first bottle opened was corked).  How do you know when you’re done smelling the wine?

DF: When I find myself repeating the same things over and over.  Then I’m done smelling the wine.  Most of the time with a wine like this I don’t think I’m ever done.  Last night with a Dönhhoff Riesling I just had one descriptor, grapefruit pie.  That’s all it was with diced pineapple candies.  But every time you back to a wine like that you do get more information or at least you hope you do.  And if you don’t, then you get bored.

TG: Well let’s taste it.

DF: I don’t want to taste it yet because I haven’t identified everything.  (Smells the wine) So it’s like a black cherry, red plum; there’s a little bit a blueberry to it.  Then in terms of flowers there’s nothing to worry about.  There’s also nothing to worry about in the American oaky kind of a thing.  I definitely do try to draw up an image surrounding a barrel; the outside of the staves and the inside of the staves.  I literally try to picture that.

TG: So where’s that?

DF: Over here somewhere (points out front and slightly to the right).

TG: Does the size of the image depend on the intensity of the aromas?

DF: No, just my point of reference.

TG: So just to get some detail, is this image some kind of screen?  Is it in 3D?  What’s it like?

DF: It’s just a partial image of a barrel.

TG: Flat?  Three dimensional?

DF: Three dimensional.

TG: We could play with this and ask what happens if you brighten up the image or make the colors really intense.  Does it change the intensity of the aroma?

DF: It just seems artificial; I can’t make any sense out of it.  I’m changing something that’s supposed to be a representation of something real and it becomes not real.  I don’t know what to do with that.

TG: In other words, it doesn’t make any sense and kind of screws it up.  OK, what about everything else, the earthiness and the funkiness?

DF: Just picturing herbs, grasses, and leaves; both edible and inedible.  They’re kind of all over the place here (motions in front just above waist level).

TG: OK.  And they’re all out in a field …

DF: No, I’m just referencing images out in front of me, like single leaves or a handful of leaves.

TG: Do they become words? Do they need to become words or are they just there?

DF: I have to name them so I guess it’s the same process with the fruit.  I have to smell it, try to figure out what it is and then it becomes a word.

TG: OK and just to be picky again, when you recognize something do you internally say to yourself, “oh that’s tarragon” and then the word happens?

DF: Yes, the word happens after the recognition.

TG: So there’s almost an auditory command like, “this is X.”

DF: Yes (after a long pause), it’s definitely auditory.

TG: And it’s your voice saying, it’s X.

DF: Yes, it’s an internal voice but it’s not necessarily mine.  It’s like sometimes you’ll talk to yourself in your own voice and sometimes in a different voice.

TG: Anything else in terms of the nose of this wine you want to mention?

DF: Not really much else.  There’s a little bit of a vegative thing going on as well as the olive paste. I keep looking at various versions of the fruit now so the red cherry might be the pit.  But I think I’m making a conscious effort to sort through these visual cherries in terms of what they actually look like.

TG: Is it like trying to calibrate the quality of it or the age?

DF: Yes, but the motivation and the mindset are just that I’m trying to smell and identify things and then I can understand what the conclusion can be from that.  But right now I’m just trying to give myself to the wine and see what’s in it.

Palate

TG: Let’s do the palate.  What are you goals when you taste the wine?  For me, I’ve done 80% of the work when I smell the wine so the only thing I’m trying to do with the palate is confirm everything and then calibrate the structure.

DF: I’m anxious to get into it and see what the weight of the wine is; so it’s very much like I want to have physical contact with the wine.

TG: But you also go through everything you’ve smelled.

DF: Yes, I’m trying to decide what’s going on.  I have got all the cherries in a row with the plums and the currants.  There’s a little bit of cranberry juice going on but those are all real physical sensations.  I don’t even drink cranberry juice.

TG: Do you need to check in with the list of words or the pictures to confirm all these things? Is that necessary or what do you do?

DF: I’m not aware of a list of words so it’s more like it’s a list of 100 questions where I’m asking, is that currant?  OK, there’s currant, so is there cranberry?

TG: So it’s auditory and you’re asking yourself those things? That’s got to happen really fast.

DF: I guess so.

TG: If you’re asking yourself if there’s any cranberry, are there any images?

DF: If it’s cranberry, yes other things come up because I’m in the habit of bringing other things up.  I’ll ask, why isn’t there strawberries?  Or dried strawberries?  It’s pretty much associative which is a sequence built on habit and not logic.  Or maybe it’s built on logic but it’s not on what’s coming out of the glass.  That’s because I’m one of those people who has to stay disciplined or else go off on a tangent.

TG: As in stream of consciousness?

DF: Or unconsciousness. And right now I’m getting a note of raisin maybe because I looked for it but I’m not seeing an image of it.  I can call it out by saying it but the first thing that happened was a word and not an image.

TG: Does the list of words change at all when you taste the wine?  Or do the words just hang out there?

DF: Hopefully but some of them are fading away.  I’m trying to pull them back up again but with limited success.

TG: So you build the list of words as construct with the nose and then when you taste it and something’s not strong it just goes away or you forget about it.

DF: Yes.

TG: So when you taste it, it might confirm it and reinforce it? Or is it not that important?

DF: Well it is important but it might be an addition image of the word black cherry as opposed to the original word getting bold and big.

TG: So when you say an additional image of the word, would it be positioned somewhere else?

DF: (motions in front and left of center) No, it would be positioned right next to the other image.  Visually it’s as if there are two images of the word black cherry literally right next to each other.  So I’ll go, “Wow, there’s a lot of black cherry.”

TG: Got it.

DF: And I’ve had that physical sensation before that there’s five words “black cherry” in front of me.  This is of course what we do when we try to grid a wine.

TG: True, if you think about it that’s exactly what we try to do.  If four or five of us say one thing then we think it’s important in the wine.  What about structure?  What do you do when you taste for structure?

DF: I’m going to start the process over again.  So I’m just tasting for sensation.  I’m not even thinking about structure at this point.  And then I can start physically feeling the tannins or there are literally seed tannins which I’m interpreting as more painful than fruit tannins and skin tannins.  The fruit keeps coming in and there’s a little bit of an image there, some kind of juice.  Then for me the whole structural thing is an intellectual decision.  I’m just taking the information I have and saying that must be medium plus tannins.

TG: OK, but how do you know it’s not just medium tannins?

DF: Well I don’t know that it’s not medium.  I have to make an intellectual assessment.  I get too much physical sensation on my tongue and in the back of my tongue—in this case I think it’s more seed tannins—for it to be medium.  So I’m still getting more of the physical pin prick of tannins.  Certainly a very dry flavor in my mouth.  And I look back at those fruits and go, well it’s moving more towards cranberry along with black cherry and raisin.  It’s medium acid and it’s as if somebody has a couple of different wines in here because some of the fruit is desiccated, dehydrated and raisinated and some of the fruit wasn’t—it’s very red cherry.  So it’s like somebody put a couple of different wines together.

TG: Just in terms of calibrating, if you have to give someone an answer about structure, just like we make our students do, how do you go about giving someone an answer?

DG: I’m medium acidity and medium plus tannins with this wine.

TG: Yes, but how do you know? How do you get precise about it?

DF: It’s just an intellectual decision that I would expect more pain with high tannins.  I would expect not to be able to notice raisins with more than medium acidity.  On the other hand, I would understand if somebody said that it’s medium plus acidity.  I might argue with them but it’s completely intellectual for me.

TG: OK, so not to be a pain in the ass but what do you mean by completely intellectual?

DF: I must mean that if anything I’m looking at the grid, really more at the slide that has the low, medium minus etc.

TG: So do you actually see these things and then point to something and go “it’s medium.”

DF: Yes.

TG: That’s exactly the way I do it, I see almost a kind of slide rule with a red button that moves and finally stops at the right level of acid or whatever.

DF: My moves but you hope it starts in the right place and often it doesn’t.

TG: Got it.

DF: So with tannin I might say that it’s not painful enough.  But that’s a very intellectual decision in comparing all the other wines with high tannin I’ve had and then saying, “This one doesn’t hurt.”

TG: The scale is really interesting to me because I think most people need some kind of visual construct to be able to calibrate well; especially is a wine is acidic and tannic at the same time.

DF: Absolutely, we always struggle with that and I don’t know that we have the answer either because again, we are tasting pH and not acid.

TG: Home stretch.  OK, if you were going to describe to someone what you do when you taste the wine, what would it be like?  You take a sip … what do you do?

DF: Very much trying to pull flavor out of it the whole time.  I pull it in to try to get the physical sensation of tannin but now I’m sitting here comparing it to things. And probably comparing it to visual images than words.  I definitely feel more of a black cherry paste and that was probably prompted by the vision of black cherry paste, whatever that is.  Maybe in a pie.  But maybe it’s not in a pie, somebody’s screwed up that fruit and I’m envisioning a mortar and pestle like fruit and sort of an olive paste image comes up as well.

TG: So going back to these images, or they jars or cans or what? Or just smears of things?

DF: More smears.  Getting some black pepper and I see some peppercorns and not a pepper grinder.

TG: If you had to take any of these images and we start changing the structure of any of them, what happens? Does it make it artificial?

DF: Yes it does.  It doesn’t make any sense.  I tried to do it with the black peppercorns, make them bigger and my reaction is, “what the hell is that all about?” It takes me off task I guess is the more important thing there.

TG: So it changes the experience so completely that it doesn’t mean anything?

DF: I think that if there’s a value, as you’re describing it, in changing the size of the word “black pepper” then that doesn’t alter anything at all because that’s a different process.  I’ve this sort of array of words in front of me and if you want me to make the words black pepper bigger then it’s no problem.  It doesn’t seem weird or destructive at all.  But if I try to make the image or the black peppercorns bigger then I feel like I’ve been taken off task.

TG: OK so that’s the system.  So let’s finish up.  How do you know when you’re finished tasting a wine?

DF: I don’t think I’m ever finished tasting a wine although there are some boring wines.  There’s always information that I’ve screwed up and missed.

TG: One thing I skipped over at the very beginning that I’d still like to ask: when you make a conclusion, what are you trying to do?

DF: Describe it appropriately; describe it in a way that others would recognize the wine.  That’s my conclusion and hopefully I’ve described it correctly.  But as we talked about previously, I’m also trying to decide, is this wine going anywhere?  Do I give a shit about this wine? It’s the first thing I do and I’m convinced that it’s because I was a salesman.  I wasn’t into wine until I was selling wine.  So the first thing I think about is, who would I sell this to? Who would like it?  Who would get this wine?  But I always think in those terms of who would get it versus who would like it.  Or I guess I do.  I tend to think that certain people tend to understand certain things and others don’t.  We all understand different things.  I get this wine we’re tasting but I don’t really care about it.  Does that make sense?

TG: Sure it does.  The last thing before I let you get out of here and head to the airport is what are your beliefs about yourself as a taster?

DF: That I’ve got some skills that are very useful; that I have to be very disciplined intellectually to be consistent because consistency is my biggest fault.

TG: Does being at the level you are and being considered a great taster, does that matter when you sit down to work?

DF: Does it matter to me?

TG: Yes, does it matter?

DF: Yes, it does.  It’s like I feel like I have to be more disciplined because I know the truth is that I’m not a great taster.

TG: What?

DF: No, seriously, that’s how I feel about it.  I can do things because I’ve figured out some stuff.

TG: You’ve figured out, what, how to pass exams?

DF: Yes and I figured out how to intellectually take these things apart.  But I don’t consider myself a great taster at all.  I just know that I’ve managed to figure it out so that I can act as if I’m a great taster.

TG: True. It’s amazing what you can do if you just pretend.

DF: And of course it’s not all pretense but it’s definitely a little bit of a role play because I have some things that I’m good and some things I’m not.  Most of the times you don’t know which is which.

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