Request for wine-tasting rules

Locusts, wind, and plastic in the post-Parker world.

Re comments here, Tom is keen to establish ground-rules for tasting. He suggests that:

  1. It should come in a glass bottle. This is interesting because glass bottles have only been around for a couple of hundred years, because of the use of devices like the porrón, and because of a possible emerging trend towards lightweight PET containers. Someone once told me that modern glass bottles are chemically quite different from older ones, but the details of that conversation are lost in my mind. I think it’s an incredibly practical and sensible suggestion.

To that I’d like to add a couple of other candidate requirements gleaned from a medieval Byzantine agricultural handbook (?), Geōponica/Γεωπονικα:

  1. A southerly wind should be blowing. (“Some indeed taste wines when the northern winds blow, for the wines then remain motionless and clear: but empiric wine-triers taste wine rather when the south wind blows; for the south wind particularly sets the wine in motion, and it convinces one what quality it is of.”)
  2. Tasting should be on a moderately empty stomach, and without munchies. (“It is not proper that a person should taste wine fasting, for the taste is dull, nor yet after drinking wine, nor after a hearty meal. The person that tastes ought to taste neither victuals that are stimulating nor too salt, nor such things as deprave his taste, but having eaten very sparingly and having well digested it. But it is proper to afford the buyers a taste when the north winds blow. Some wishing to have a good laugh, at the expence of the buyers, have a new jar, which they wash with very good, and old, and very well-flavoured wine, for the quality remains on it for a long time, sothat one might think it to be the fragrance of wine lately poured in, and they thus deceive the persons that taste. Some innkeepers also, who are more cunning, lay cheese and nuts in the wine-cellar so as to attract the persons that get in to eat of them, that the perfect sense of tasting may be falsified.”)
  3. A locust should be dropped into each decanter to ensure that the contents are wine and not some Austrian potion. (“It is necessary for the master often to trust wine or must to the curators or to the servants; it is also necessary that the buyer should prove if the wine is genuine. Some therefore throw an apple into the vessel, but it is better to throw in wild pears: some throw in a locust, and some a cigale, and if these indeed swim the wine is genuine; but if they sink, it is diluted. Some also immerse in the wine a reed rubbed with oil, or papyrus, or a dried stalk of grass, or any dry twig; having also rubbed them with oil, and having then wiped them, and taking out the reed, or any of the other things immersed; they make the proof; for if the wine ie diluted, drops of water will stick on the oil. Some likewise, making a more simple experiment, pour the wine into a new pot that has had no moisture in it, and they hang it up during two days, for the pot will leak when water is mixed with it. Some also, heating the wine, pour it into a new pot, and they set it in the open air; if therefore it is diluted, it turns to vinegar. Some also pour the wine on what is called titanos, that is, a limestone; and if the wine is mixed with water, it will penetrate the stone; but if it is genuine, it will fix the stone. Some pour the wine into a frying-pan having hot oil, and if it is mixed with water it will raise bubbles and make a noise, and it will fly up with elastic power. Some likewise having wetted a new spunge with oil, stop the mouth of the vessel and invert it, and if it is diluted it will run through the spunge. We also use the same proof with regard to oil.”)


  1. Blind tasting? I am short-sighted, or is this a meths question?
  2. Vertical vs horizontal? Wine is all about time, and any natural progression in stance should be respected?

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Last updated 23/05/2012

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Kaleboel (4307):

Polyethylene terephthalate (1): Polyethylene terephthalate), commonly abbreviated PET, PETE, or the obsolete PETP or PET-P, is the most common thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family and is used in fibres for clothing, containers for liquids and foods, thermoforming for manufacturing, and in combination with glass fibre for engineering resins. It may also be referred to by the brand names Terylene in the UK, Lavsan in Russia and the former Soviet Union, and Dacron in the US. The majority of the world's PET production is for synthetic fibres, with bottle production accounting for about 30% of global demand.

Porron (1): A porron is a traditional glass wine pitcher, which holds 0.75 litres, typical of Catalonia, Aragon and the Valencian Country, originating in Catalonia and eventually spreading to other parts of Spain.

Robert M. Parker (2):

Wine (16):

Wine tasting (1):


  1. The glass bottle rule was aimed at ruling out barrel-sourced puggle. But I’m not that much of a stickler for it.

    PET? You can keep yer phthalates. I’ll bring my bota along, though: I’m informed that garrafó turns to Les Terrasses 2007 after a week in there…

  2. If it comes in a bottle it’s got a brand on the outside and it’s firmly corked and un-fiddled-with. So you know what you’re getting.

  3. Origins. The Chinese don’t produce at more than 2€ a bottle. Are you going to try all that? Does French wine count as Spanish wine since it’s all made with Spanish grape?

  4. I think we should say: bought in Spain, made in Spain or neighboring countries (extrapolate from this what you will). I don’t want my cheap wine flown in.

  5. @Nun: Do English producers use Spanish grape too?
    @Tom: I’m good with that. There must be some more rules we can think of.

  6. Tried something for €2.50 that was surprisingly not too bad. “DO Catalunya” (which means ‘from anywhere’), some Gran Viña or other from prov. Girona. I’ll look up the name later. I’m determined to find something that breaks the €1.99 barrier.

  7. GF still has bike, but looking forward to my D’oh! Whatever.

    Do we need a database? Should Zuckerberg be alerted?

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