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Tasting Notes as a Marketing Tool
How you write the message can change depending on your audience, even if the wine doesn't.
I wrote a thing for a magazine that you can’t read unless you sign up for it. In there was one sentence about the way we can craft tasting notes, but how often they become a humdrum afterthought.
The meaning behind that sentence was really more about how the wine doesn’t need to change, when the way we talk about that wine can change so much more.
Depending on what we include in a tasting note, whether that be technical details or emotive, flouncy abstract stuff, we can tailor the audience to the wine. Retailers work backwards, talking about wines in a way that resonates with their target audience.
You can happily re-brand the exact same wine, even with the same front label, but; through tasting notes, tone of voice and the copy on the back label, you can decide which particular subset of wine drinkers pay any attention to it.
With that in mind, I thought I’d attempt to demonstrate different ways of talking about the exact same wine in different ways, depending who you’re talking to.
Tasting Notes, Four-Ways
I picked this wine from the Majestic Website: Villa Borghetti Valpolicella Ripasso
Here’s my take on four different styles of writing a tasting note.
This traditional red from north-eastern Italy shows all the classic sour cherry and cranberry character you’d expect. Made using local grape varieties, and a technique where the wine is ‘re-passed’ over the pressed grape skins of ‘Amarone’, the Veneto’s top wine, giving extra structure and depth. Serve with grilled meats.
Corvina (70%) with Rondinella and Corvione, picked in mid-September, traditionally pressed, with a 12 day ferment in stainless steel. ‘Ripasso’ translates to ‘re-pass’, and reflects the process of kick-starting a second fermentation by ‘passing it over’ the pressed skins leftover from the production of Ripasso’s big brother, Amarone. It’s then aged in old-oak for 8 months, giving firm tannins, intense fruit while retaining Valpolicella’s classically crunchy acidity.
The Pasqua family have been making wines in Italy’s beautiful Veneto region for generations, the rolling hills proving a consistent backdrop to the family’s innovative blend of traditional and modern winemaking techniques. Rooted in history, local grapes are hand-crafted into this wondrously decadent wine
Wacky Not Natty
This stonker packs a gut-punch of fruit, a slap round the face of raspberry and sour cherry. Nowhere in the world makes wine like this, a mashup of sprightly Valpolicella and the skins of out-of-reach fruit-bomb Amarone. Our favourite Baby Amarone? You bet.
Indie Merchant Best Practice
Independent merchants, and retailers could do well to think about this in more detail. How often do you see multiple websites with eerily similar descriptions online based on the producer or importer notes?
Too many retailers hand over their tone of voice to a tech sheet. When creating new products, merchants simply copy&paste or paraphrase the tasting note from one .pdf to the ‘description_001’ field on their site and move on.
Creating a universal tone of voice, throughout a website, with consistent tasting notes that fit with your business is so important. Big e-commerce businesses with marketing departments have the time to focus on this, while smaller businesses don’t often take the time to hone their voice online.
Nick Parker’s ‘Tone Knob’ is one of my favourite reads, focussing on brands that have excellent Tone of Voice. This example from Penhaligon’s is beautiful. But, I’d advise you go and read them all.
Quite a long, fairly dry, run through on how to decode tasting notes from Decanter, by Chris Mercer.
I genuinely think this is written in good faith, and is attempting to help their readers, but to me, the fact that this article is necessary is just highlighting the problem, not the solution.
Do you ever find it difficult to read wine tasting notes?
Wine tasting will always have a subjective, personal quality, because taste and smell are so inextricably bound to an individual’s own reference points. Language, too, is both collective and individual, and you may identify more with one wine critic over another.
But, there are some common wine descriptive words that it is useful to know, and can help you understand what to expect from a style of wine.
It’s a subscription club called Wine52, and you get a magazine each month, I’ve written three articles for them.