Wine Journal Woes
July 24, 2010
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.
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 constrict 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.
You can, of course go digital, and disregard all of this luddite mumbo-jumbo