Minding the Blind Spots
I am currently going through a year's worth of notes, standardising them and entering them into a database with the aim of having something easy, searchable and secure to refer to. There are about three hundred wines in it so far, with quite a few scribblings in my little yellow book still awaiting transcription. It feels good to get organised, despite the nagging sensation that I've taken on some kind of unpaid data entry internship.
There are a number of wines that have been tasted multiple times, most frequently as part of a large lineup and again in a quieter environment such as at home or in a restaurant. Most of the time the notes are thankfully pretty consistent, but discrepancies do appear. The most common type seems to be an enthusiasm for boldly-styled wines (often fairly oxidative or oaky) at large tastings that is not found again at home, with the wines then revealing a lack freshness or vitality when a whole bottle is opened and consumed over hours or days. This is felt especially keenly when you spend your hard-earned cash. As someone who writes about wine, it's less a case of poacher-turned-gamekeeper and more poacher-turned-poachee!
On the other hand, there are a few examples where I have spotted things in comparative lineups that didn't appear when the wine was tasted with a lot more focus in isolation. This is just a question of perspective - without comparative wines is it quite easy go down a warren of side-streets and alleyways whilst missing the main road. I find it quite helpful to have a quick 'calibration' taste of something else (anything that might be open in the fridge) in these cases.
The best notes tend to come from focused, quiet comparative tastings that feature flights of perhaps five to ten wines, quality glassware and the opportunity to go back and re-taste earlier wines in the flight (or at least keep a few samples in separate glasses). Wines have a chance to open up in the glass and blow off any fresh-bottle grumpiness, yet there is enough pace and structure to keep focus. If done in this way I find I can taste more without getting fatigued than at larger, amorphous tastings.
Having this sort of easy access to your own notes seems like the best way to self-audit as a taster. If I can get my head around the technicalities I'd like to incorporate them into SixAtmospheres v2 at some point. The goal for now, though, is eliminating the blind spots and being able to taste well even in challenging situations.