Wine Journal Woes

July 24, 2010

Wine Journal

I keep a wine journal. A paper one. Much to the annoyance of family & friends I am rarely without one. I’ve filled several with tasting notes, labels and dribble marks of wines consumed over the last few years. Perhaps not surprisingly, this obsession has resulted in another fixation: optimum wine journal format.

Incredibly, the perfect wine journal is an elusive creature. One might think that with wine being around since 5000 BC, or thereabouts, wine journal design must be perfected by now… but no. Silly, impractical wine journal designs abound making shopping for a new one enough to drive a person to drink (and with no place to put one’s notes!)

Here are my thoughts on good wine journal construction:

1. Size. The size of the journal should be small enough for portability, but large enough to fit all your thoughts and scraps (e.g. labels). Think: book/novel sized. Teeny ones will fit in your purse/man-bag but so maddening to write in (and read from) that you will probably not use them.

2. Cover. The cover should ideally be made of some kind of wipe-able, durable material. Wipe-able, so that it stands up to spills and durable so that it stands up to transport and frequent access.

3. Layout. Simple is best – with the following considerations included:

a) Label pages. Ideally the journal contains pages for labels, positioned opposite the notes page so notes & label are viewable side-by-side. I think labels are an important aspect of note-taking and provide a visual cue for remembering wines better than the name alone. They’re also helpful (& more interesting) to others leafing through your journals while you’re cooking dinner.

Open Wine Journal

Example of wine journal without dedicated label page - I just stuck the label in there anyway.

b) Notes pages. Ideally the notes page should contain 6 fields: Name (at the top), Date, Varietal, Region, Vintage & Price (I usually write where I bought it here, too) with a spacious, free-form area for Tasting Notes. Anything beyond this is just extra noise and limits what you can write where. Numbered rating systems – unless you have a strict criteria upon which you consistently rate wines – are arbitrary and unreliable. Separate compartments for appearance/nose/palate/finish/food pairing etc. are unnecessary and┬áconstrict use of space.

c) Dividers. Initially, I was undecided, but lately I’ve been warming to the idea of dividers, or tabs to organise journal content into sections – e.g. Red, White, Fortified, etc. This is primarily for retrieval purposes (as anyone familiar with the pain of hunting for a specific wine in a 200-pg wine journal can relate to). Fixed dividers are inflexible since they dictate a set number of pages per category (they also define the category for you) but using a 3-ring binder-style journal with generic tabs solves this problem.

Open Wine Journal

An example of an easy, loose format with lots of room for notes, and a label on opposite page.

You can, of course go digital, and disregard all of this luddite mumbo-jumbo :-)

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7 Responses to “Wine Journal Woes”

  1. I think that it’s really neat that you have a wine journal and it’s important to keep track of all that information. Have you seen the preformatted Moleskine wine journal? I have one of the film ones which us pretty good. But sometimes blank or lined or pages with a grid can be better.

    • Hi Chris! Hmm, yes I think I’ve seen the Moleskine wine journals in Book Mark (on SGR)…? but as I recall they were wrapped in plastic & I couldn’t peer inside. Anyway, will go back to check on these. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Erin said

    I use my iPhone and Evernote, a database kinda app thing. I take a photo of the label and attach it to my notes, I find that works pretty well, especially as the app does character recognition on images, so it sometimes even finds it when you haven’t written down the name.

  3. Niamh said

    Brilliant idea, although the thought of trying to find anything is stressful.

    I have a similar recipe journal, a moleskin one. As Chris says, ou should try their wine one!

  4. winesleuth said

    Heather, you are living up to your luddite moniker! I think it’s very cute :)

    ps. have you heard of this thing called the “I-pad” ;)

  5. Lon Kaiser said

    So, any suggestions then on what you have been happy with? I’ve been searching and it IS frustrating. I’d like the guide as simple as possible (considering a blank notebook) but I do need some inherent structure and guide on the page – akin to what you mentioned – as I am a notoriously BAD note take. The moleskine seemed a bit to verbose with features for me. Thanks!

    • To be honest, Lon, I am still searching for the perfect one! A friend bought me a near perfect one from Reid’s Stationary in Calgary a few years back – made by C R Gibson, ISBN 0-7053-5292-7 – might be able to find online!

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