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The Best Tasting Note I've Ever Heard

Posted December 12, 2014

Howard Kaplan

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Sometime during the 1980s, Executive Wine Seminars offered a blind tasting of California Pinot Noir hosted by Josh Jensen, winemaker at Calera. This was a time when California vintners were experimenting with "the heartbreak grape," with lots of failures to match the successes. At the time, Calera was a leading winery producing Pinot Noir and Josh Jensen was an expert on the grape's vinification process.

In addition to Calera's entry, the tasting consisted of 12 other "state-of-the-art" California Pinot Noirs. The wines were poured from numbered paper bags with nobody in the room of 60 participants knowing which wine was in which bag.

Everything was proceeding normally until a woman asked Josh "What do you think of wine #6?" He took a moment to look at his notes, then looked up and said "I think wine number six is yummy!"

Everybody laughed. But when the laughter died down, what Josh had to say remains the most profound wine advice I've ever heard.

"You may laugh when I use the word "yummy" to describe a wine" he began, "but the word yummy conveys more information about how I feel about the wine than all the descriptors and technical jargon put together. The true test of any wine is whether or not you'd like another glass."

Wow, we all just sat there spellbound. So simple, yet so true. To this day, Josh's words still remain in the forefront of my brain. When I ask an expert what they think of a given wine, and get a long, technical answer that doesn't offer a clue as to whether or not they like the wine, I always go back to Josh Jensen's words, as true today as it was in the 1980s.

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Howard Kaplan is a co-founder of Executive Wine Seminars, a New York based organization focusing on tasting rare and coveted wines.  He started writing about wine in the early 1980s for Wine Spectator and Cuisine Magazine.  Today, Howard’s tasting notes can be found on both Stephen Tanzer and Robert Parker’s websites.

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