Wine Descriptors – First Impressions Matter



What makes a good wine note and how many adjectives should you use?

As an example which of the two following wines would you prefer? Wine 1 “Tannic, assertive acidity, dry, tobacco, plummy, powerful or wine 2 “Powerful, plummy, tobacco, dry, assertive acidity, tannic.” Even though the same words are used most people will show a preference for the second wine. Perhaps that is not surprising as we place more weight on the first few adjectives and have less capacity to process or remember what follows. First impressions are important.

This is true of wine lists too with wines at the beginning getting more attention than those towards the end even when the prices are not so widely spread. Wines may languish or flourish depending on their position on the list.

More and more wine lists are telling stories rather than offering descriptions of taste and flavour. If the same wine above was instead described as “organic from old vines and a boutique small producer” would this make it more or less appealing? My own view is that this may be of interest but needs to be supplemented with an accurate taste or style profile and is not enough of itself.

Another pitfall in presenting wine notes on a list is using the same words repeatedly. I can recall one list (not one we supply!) were the word “cherry” is used for almost every single red wine. It may well be accurate but it makes it difficult for the consumer to differentiate one wine from the other.

Most wines can be summarised in two or three memorable words and these should be capable of capturing the unique essence of the wine. As we develop the website further we will be including short tasting profiles for each of the wines over the coming weeks.