In 2008, Emily became one of only 149 people in the U.S. to ever pass the Master Sommelier diploma examination—and one of only 24 women. She was also awarded the prestigious Remi Krug Cup for passing all three sections of the exam on her first attempt, one of two women to ever achieve this remarkable distinction.
We did the tasting session at her office in San Francisco. The wine used for the tasting was the 2009 Double Bond Pinot Noir from the Wolf Vineyard in Edna Valley. Riedel Wine Series Chianti Classico/Sangiovese glasses were used for the tasting. During the session, I spent the better part of two hours standing next to Emily observing her tasting. In particular, I paid close attention to her eye movements and language patterns, looking for clues as to how she processed all the information in the glass. My intent was to deconstruct her strategies, literally how she thinks about tasting, in the form of processing and organizing aromatics, flavors and structural components. In the end, we managed to map out the exact sequence of what she does internally when she tastes. The results, to say the least, are remarkable in that they provide a glimpse into the thinking and strategies of a top taster. Read on and enjoy!
TG: What are your overall goals when you taste? What are you trying to accomplish?
EW: I’m trying to find out if the wine is, what it should be, and if it’s OK and not flawed. If it’s too wacked I don’t even bother to go further and taste it. I’m also checking for flaws to make sure it’s not too over the top. I’m also looking for varietal correctness and the “deliciousness factor,” or something that makes me want to taste more. Even if it’s an over the top Cabernet, is there something about the wine that would make me want to taste more.
TG: What does “deliciousness” mean?
EW: Does the wine have good balance and good structure? Does the wine have something intriguing about it that makes me want to taste more? The intriguing part could be, if it’s an over the top Chardonnay that’s all about oak and butter, does it taste like delicious caramel popcorn, tropical fruit, and butterscotch? Or is it just so heavy in the mouth and there’s really nothing else there. The opposite would be something really understated which also can be a problem if there’s not much there to begin with. A lot of people are now making an un-oaked or restrained style of Chardonnay and there’s really not much there.
TG: Do you have other goals for tasting if it’s a wine you’re considering for a restaurant list?
EW: I’m checking for varietal or regional correctness. I’m also asking if it’s appropriately priced. Does the wine taste like it should for the money or does it over-deliver? Ideally it should over-deliver.
TG: What are your goals as a taster?
EW: To narrow down and get an impression from the wine. At the very least, I want to come away with an impression from a wine. I’d like to have more stamina as a taster, to be able to get through more wines. Once I get beyond 50 wines my palate isn’t as fresh. But there’s not something specific that I try to do every time I sit down and taste. I’m trying to find something new that sticks or that makes an impression; I think blind tasting is like a language, so I’m looking for something that I can add to my language of senses.
TG: What is your evidence for a good tasting? What do you need? (Glassware, context, lighting, etc.)
EW: I need good light, bright enough light that I can really see the wine; it needs to be quiet. With a professional tasting, it’s really easy to blow through a ton of wines and not pay attention. I taste wine in batches so I can go back and compare if I need to. I think comparing is important because a wine can sometimes be affected by what comes before it. I also almost always taste wines at room temperature because any flaws in the wine will really show. It’s the most honest way to look at wine.
TG: What are your beliefs about tasting; about your own tasting?
EW: I think that I have a pretty unbiased palate; some people’s palates are more skewed to luxury wines vs. other people’s palates which can be more naïve. I’ve tasted so long as a buyer that I do tend to have that perspective. One of the things I have to do is find wines under $5 and that’s hard. But I don’t really think I’m a great blind taster; it’s something that I worked really hard at and focus on. It’s not something that’s inherently easy for me. Some people have really great palate memory and the ability to taste things and textures that I don’t get. But I can taste at a really high level. In the scheme of blind tasters out there, it’s not a talent that came easy to me but it’s something that I’m good at doing. I think I’m good at processing information quickly and categorizing it in my mind; visualizing through things. I learned pretty early on that I’m a visual learner with my tasting.
TG: What about the other parts of the exam?
EW: Service was easy for me because it’s what I did all the time. Theory was manageable because it was about taking all the information and making a system for memorizing the information. To memorize theory I made up a lot of acronyms. But then I also did what I’ve come learn as making memory palaces; taking names or places that didn’t really have any connection for me and then create a word association picture with it.
TG: What are your overall beliefs about wine?
EW: Wine is pleasurable, it’s enjoyable and it’s often social. It’s an artisanal thing but it’s also an industrial product; there’s a balance there and it doesn’t mean that one is necessarily better than the other.
TG: How is wine valuable to you, both personally and professionally?
EW: It’s a living, creative thing. Fine wine is like artwork that’s in a bottle and you don’t get to appreciate that artwork until you consume it. If you go to a big trade event like the Aspen Food and Wine Festival, watch the people with wine vs. spirits. There’s something about the way that people think about wine—they savor it. Most people take their time and get drawn into it. You don’t see that often with beer and spirits.
TG: What are you trying to learn/accomplish when looking at a glass of wine?
EW: I’m looking for quality. There are times when I’m looking at a Pinot Noir, for instance, and it’s purple. Then something’s wacky or not varietally correct because there could be something blended in like Syrah. So it’s not honest wine and they’re (winemaker) changing the wine from something that it should be.
TG: As you look at the color, how do you know if it’s varietally correct? How do you know that it’s the right color vs. other similar wines you’ve had in the past?
EW: I can compare it to similar wines I’ve had before; I have experience with what those wines should look like. I’m picturing the range of colors for red wine starting on the left with pale colors for a delicate young red moving across and to the right as they get more intense in color (Emily motions 12-15” in front of her, starting to her left at eye level, then going left to right ending just to the right of her face. The more intense the color, the farther right and closer to her face the color is. If it’s too intense for her it’s literally right in her face).
TG: What about wines that have age?
EW: If the wines are more orange in color with age, then it moves off to the right and farther away.
TG: So there are two color spectrums? One for age and one for intensity of color? Do they start together and then branch out separately?
EW: Yes and yes.
TG: Do you do this with all wines? What about a white wine like Chardonnay?
EW: Yes, if it’s really yellow, it’s right here close to me. If it’s a younger wine with more green, it’s over here (to her left). If it’s golden and oxidized, then it’s over here off to the right and further back.
TG: Do you literally take a look at the color of a wine and then compare it to the scales?
TG: What shape are these color scales?
EW: It’s like a strip.
TG: Do the colors change in a continuum or are they separate?
EW: It’s like a continuum or series of pantone paint swatches lined up.
TG: Are the different colors segmented?
EW: They are segmented but it’s very subtle. Like tick marks, like paint strips with very thin lines.
TG: How does it work? Do you look at the color of the wine and then match it? Does the scale move? Something else move?
EW: The scale is fixed. I look at the wine and then compare it to the scale.
TG: How do you know you have it or have accomplished it?
EW: It happens pretty quickly for me. After I match the wine to the color on the scale I’m pretty much done.
TG: How do you actually observe wine?
EW: When I look at a glass of wine, I almost always tip it away from me and roll the glass in my fingers. At the same time I’m looking at the color, I’m also watching the viscosity and the staining because the wine is moving and reflecting light. I’m also looking down at the core and then at the rim for sediment for brightness and for clarity. All that’s happening pretty much at once.
TG: What are you trying to learn and/or accomplish when smelling a wine?
EW: The grid is a pretty important framework to hang things on. My primary goal is to get a first impression. I believe that whatever that first impression is, is really important. If I’m starting to veer off, I go back to that first impression because it’s something that can’t be ignored. The first impression can be a flaw or cherries or violets or smoke like a campfire. I ask, what can that be? Sometimes it can be really obvious like Shiraz. Sometimes not.
TG: When you say it’s obvious like the Shiraz, it’s because ...
EW: It’s because all those clues are lined up.
TG: What are the clues?
EW: I’ve already looked at it so the color’s there. Then there’s an almost painful intensity with blue-black fruit, tar, mint, and eucalyptus, herby, and exotic--all those things.
TG: Are there any other goals in smelling the wine?
EW: Once I get that primary or first impression, I usually don’t say it out loud; but if I’m blind tasting but hold it and then I try to go through the wine and find the fruit, earth, and wood.
TG: Do you use the MS tasting grid?
EW: Yes, it’s huge and in black and white right in front of me (about 5 feet away, 2D, rectangular about chest height). It looks like an Excel document and has the all information from the grid on it. The first thing I do when approaching a wine is to get a first impression, to let the wine come to me. I stop and smell the wine. It’s more of a visceral experience and I try to get an idea of what’s the very first impression. But I’m not trying to make any decisions. I just want to be with the wine because sometimes I think we do so much work with the grid that we miss out on things. You can miss the soul of the wine.
TG: What does soul of the wine mean to you?
EW: It’s the part of the wine that speaks to me.
TG: So soul and first impression are the same thing?
TG: Let’s find out how you smell wine.
EW: I smell wine twice. I first pick up the glass not disturbing it too much and take the most delicate gentle sniff and let the wine come in. To me, it’s a whole different range of smells. Then I give it a swirl and smell again.
TG: What are you looking for in that first go round?
EW: The very delicate, sort of volatile aromas that disappear when you swirl the glass. Things like floral, volatile acidity, and perfume. Sometimes it’s hard to pull things out of a wine; but when you pick up the glass like that you can get some delicate subtle aromas.
TG: Show me how you smell the wine. (Emily rests the glass under her nose on her upper lip. She holds the glass at about a 35 degree angle, head slightly down, torso very slightly down as well). When you first pick up a glass to smell the wine where do your eyes go?
EW: Straight out ahead and very slightly down.
TG: What’s happening then? Do you think about the grid?
TG: What’s going on?
EW: I smell roses and cherries. It’s almost like Tarot cards on a table.
TG: Cards? How do the cards appear? Where do they come from? So you smell something, ID it as “cherry,” and then what happens?
EW: It’s almost like there’s a table in front of me and there are cards on the table that have things in the wine on them.
TG: Where do the cards from?
EW: I take them out of my back pocket.
TG: When you take the card out of your pocket do you look at it and ID it as “cherries?”
TG: So when you smell something you and ID it, how do you know it’s a “cherry” and not something else? This is even before it becomes a card.
EW: I’m picturing big, luscious, almost stewed cherries right here (points chin level to the right about six inches away). There’s a cluster of cherries, they’re really ripe and almost soppy.
TG: What does the image look like?
EW: It’s a cluster of cherries in 3D with realistic bright colors and texture.
TG: What happens to the cherries once you see them and ID them?
EW: I set them aside and they become an image on a card that goes on the table. With the first impression whatever it is, the card is larger and I keep it on the table right in front of me.
TG: So you smell and then confirm with an image of the fruit or whatever; then the image becomes a 2D Tarot like card on the table in front of you.
TG: What’s the table like?
EW: It’s a dark wood conference-like table. When I taste, the table is my whole world. I can’t see the other side. I’m in my own little bubble just putting these cards out in front of me. It’s funny because I’ve never even done Tarot cards before. But that’s exactly how I picture it.
TG: What else did you smell besides the cherries?
EW: Roses (she points to almost the same place where the image of cherries was) and they’re almost to the point of almost being tossed out.
TG: Just curious, where are the cherries now?
EW: They’re both together but the roses are closer to me. They’re the same color as the cherries (deep but almost faded Burgundy).
TG: What happens to the roses then?
EW: They become a card and go on the table.
TG: How big are the cards on the table?
EW: About the same size as playing cards, although the primary, first impression card is larger and it’s right in front of me. The others not so close, so I’m always having to refer back to them. If there’s an important clue about a wine, the card could become bigger and closer to me. If I’m looking at a white wine that’s copper colored, then it’s an important clue and it would be a bigger card. It’s almost as if the sight’s here, the nose is here, and palate’s here (she motions in front of her left to right, table level, sight to the left, nose directly in front and palate to the right).
TG: With all these cards, are there different places for fruit vs. earth vs. wood?
EW: Not at all. It’s more about what are the most important clues. The more important they, are the closer they are to me.
TG: This is a pretty cool system. How do you use the grid with it? The grid that you showed me a few minutes ago was right out in front of you about chest-high and was like an Excel grid with all the information on it.
EW: Yes, it’s right here (motions out in front of her about two feet), and I’m going through it checking off things that might be in the wine.
TG: What happens there? You’re seeing something that might be on the grid and then what?
EW: Rather than checking something off, it becomes a visual clue.
TG: So you’re going down the grid checking things off and then an image is generated?
EW: I’m looking at the section of the grid on wood and now images of oak aromas are coming up; then they become cards and go down here (points to the “table”).
TG: It also seems like the images of wood are slightly to the right of center.
TG: For this wine, what representation of wood do you see?
EW: I’m looking for sweet things like in ice cream or baking spices like clove. Or maybe there’s a subtle textural thing.
TG: Are you pulling something out of the glass and then comparing to something you’ve smell before, or do you see all of those things first and then choose?
EW: It’s a scale just like the colors; from gently oxidative all the way to screaming oak.
TG: What does that scale look like? Is it colors? Images?
EW: I guess it’s kind of images. For gently oxidative I think of dried apples.
TG: Where is that? (Points over to the left about 2-3 feet from center) What’s over on this end?
EW: On this end, it’s my primary impression and I almost can’t shake it. The scale starts here (motions in front about two feet left of center) and goes over here (scale ends really close to the right side of her face).
TG: What’s over here next to your face?
EW: It’s something very sweet like vanilla and sweet spices. It’s not necessarily images, but something really sweet like you’re walking through the cologne department of a store and people are spraying things on you. While over here I really have to reach for it.
TG: That’s great, but again I’m trying to get the recipe or sequence for what you do. You put your nose in the glass and smell the wine. Then you have the Excel grid in front of you and have these continuums. Do you use them for everything? Do you use the same thing for earth and mineral?
EW: No, it’s different. With fruit, I have buckets of different kinds of fruit I’m reaching into. Is it red fruit or black fruit, or blue fruit or dried fruit? (Points to different locations out in front of her, eye level, left to right starting with red fruit).
TG: When you say buckets of fruit, are there literally buckets?
EW: No, they’re almost like giant fruit bowls with real fruits in them (both 3D). I identify the kind of fruit in the bucket and then ask what quality is the fruit. Is it fresh? Is it dry? Is it sweet? Is it sour?
TG: So you pull the fruit out of the bucket and then look at it to see if it’s dry, fresh, sour etc.? Once you’re done with it, does it becomes a card that goes on the table? If it’s really important, is the card is larger and closer to you? If it’s anything else, is there an arrangement to it?
EW: Not really, it’s more like the important things are closer to me; the things that are screaming are very close, and that first impression is always the biggest card.
TG: Do the other cards vary in size?
EW: No, it’s just in terms of how close or how far they are from me.
TG: What about earth? What do you do with earth?
EW: With earth, I smell the wine and ask if it’s there and then if it’s organic or not (Eye position is in front and down table top level).
TG: You looked here and here for organic and inorganic. What are you looking at?
EW: It’s almost like there are two buckets; a bucket full of rocks and a bucket full of soil and mushrooms.
TG: What do these buckets look like?
EW: These are more like a bucket with a handle on it.
TG: And the fruit is in a bowl?
EW: Yes, the fruits are in a bowl up here (points to just below eye level out in front), while the buckets for earth and mineral are down here (table or waist level).
TG: So you ID something, define its quality, and then as soon as you’re done with it, it becomes a card on goes on the table.
EW: Especially if it’s important. It might not be that important.
TG: How do you know if it’s important? Better question, how do you know if it’s not important?
EW: Sometimes if it’s a neutral white wine and has citrus, the citrus doesn’t tell me anything.
TG: Got it. Behind your system there’s a lot of theory and experience to back it up.
TG: I have to ask if you had any idea that you did all this?
EW: I knew I did the Tarot card thing but not the rest of it.
TG: To summarize: you start by putting your nose in the glass and then you look out in front. It seems like most of your eye positions are right out here in front. Right here (out in front, straight ahead and slightly down), seems like your comfortable starting point. Does that seem right?
TG: From there, you’re looking for the first impression, whatever the strongest aroma is. If it’s fruit, it’s in the bowls out in front here; if it’s earth, it’s in the buckets here or here. What about herbs and other non-fruit things? Where are they?
EW: They fall in that same kind of middle tier out here (points directly out front, chest level and left to right). It’s almost like reaching out to find what else is there.
TG: Where are the herbs?
EW: The herbs are in bunches. I’m also asking what kind of herbs, as in fresh herbs vs. dried herbs, etc.
TG: So literally right out in front of you, chest level, with herbs left of center in bunches and then going toward center.
TG: To finish your sequence; you put your nose in the glass and then your eyes go out in front and slightly down. If fruit is the first impression, you go with the system of bowls, choose what it is, and then grab it. From there you hold it, look at it, and then assign a quality to it. Finally, that becomes a card that goes on the table.
EW: That’s right.
TG: How do you know when you’re done?
EW: Because I’ve gone through the entire grid. I’ve got my first impression and then I check off all the boxes on my Excel sheet.
TG: It also seems like that once you ID something, you pull it out and compare it against the grid as well.
EW: Right, I check it against all the boxes.
TG: When you say you check all the boxes, do you actually put marks on the sheet?
TG: To finish up, let’s talk about submodalities and the image of cherries. What happens if you make the image larger as in really large? Does the intensity of the aromas of the fruit get stronger? Less strong?
EW: If I make it larger it becomes singular, blocking out all other smells.
TG: What happens if you make the image smaller? Stronger intensity or less strong?
EW: By making the image smaller it’s less intense, almost like it's set aside.
TG: What happens if you push the image far away? Stronger intensity or less strong?
EW: Much less strong or intense; it’s what has to happen to move on to the next aroma.
TG: What happens if you make the image of the fruit black and white? Stronger intensity or less strong?
EW: It becomes much less intense. The color is very much a part of the aroma.
TG: What happens if you make the image 2 D instead of 3 D? Stronger intensity or less strong?
EW: Much less strong. This is what I describe when I say the 3D image becomes like a playing card. It is cataloged but set aside.
TG: What happens if you change the location of the image? Say put it way up or way down? Stronger intensity or less strong?
EW: It becomes less strong. It's strongest when it is right in front of my eyes.
TG: In summary, your driver submodalities are size, proximity, color vs. black and white and location. Changing any of those in an image changes the experience and sometimes dramatically.
TG: Now you have a really good idea of what the wine is about. What are your goals when actually tasting the wine? What are you trying to
EW: To confirm the checked off things on my Excel sheet next to me, but I’m also going through this physical visceral kind of experience with the wine.
TG: What does that mean?
EW: Is it mouthwatering? Is it appealing? Is it bitter? Is it even the right temperature?
TG: We’ll get to the structure in a bit, but in the meantime, what are your goals as a taster in terms of what you’ve tasted vs. the cards on the table?
EW: I’m referring back to the cards on the table, reviewing and asking, does this taste like cherry? Like roses? Now I’m noticing that the fruit is more macerated.
TG: What it seems like you’re doing, is pointing to all the cards on the table from smelling the wine. If there’s something extra, what happens? Is it the same process where you reach for something and then it becomes another card?
EW: No, when I taste I’m looking at the cards and reviewing them. If there’s something new, then it’s almost like it’s right in front of my face.
TG: You mean an image right in front of you?
EW: Yes, but it’s like a card because I’m not reaching for it. I’ve already done that but I’ve missed whatever the new thing is.
TG: After it pops up where does it go? Is there a specific position for it?
EW: It goes on the table in the palate position to the right. If it’s something subtle, then it will go further away from me. But if it’s something screaming, then it will be closer and I’ll say, "Wow, how did I miss that much tar in the wine?" Or something like noticing that the quality of the fruit is different from what I was smelling.
TG: Do the images on the cards change, or do you get different cards?
EW: If I’m tasting a wine and the fruit is much richer or brighter than it was on the nose, then the image on the card actually gets brighter too. If it’s a wine where I’m reaching for it and can’t I really get anything out of the nose, sometimes I’ll taste something new and it can solidify the wine.
TG: Go ahead and taste the wine. I’m interested in the sequence of where your eyes go. I notice that when you taste your eyes go down here (down and straight ahead). Are you looking at cards?
EW: I’m looking at the other edge of the table. When I taste, my whole world is right out here (motions to the “table”).
TG: Are you looking at anything in particular?
EW: No, just trying to let an impression come to me.
TG: So you look out to the other edge of the table and let the whole process start?
TG: Now for structure. How do you know how much acid, alcohol, or tannin is in the wine? How do you quantify those things? Let’s talk about acidity, for instance.
EW: I’m paying attention to how tart the wine is on my tongue, how much I’m salivating—a combination of the two.
TG: Got that. But how do you calibrate just how much acidity is in the wine, as in the difference between medium-plus and high acid? How do you know?
EW: There’s a scale I see; it’s really small.
TG: So there’s some kind of visual confirmation? You put both hands out in front of you about a foot apart. What does the scale look like?
EW: It’s a ruler.
TG: A ruler with gradations? Over here to the left for low and over to the right for high?
TG: What color is it?
EW: It’s yellow and the color for medium to low is almost faded out; the color from medium to high is much deeper and brighter.
TG: Is there any marker on it that moves so you can calibrate? Or do you just point to a mark on it?
EW: There’s a motion; I point to it.
TG: What about alcohol? How do you calibrate it?
EW: Alcohol is more visceral in some way; there’s an intensity to the wine overall.
TG: How do you measure it?
EW: There’s the same kind of ruler, only it’s broader because it goes from low to high. It also doesn’t have tick marks on it. There’s almost like a bubble on it like a construction level that shifts. I have to watch it a lot closer because alcohol can be kind of nebulous for me sometimes.
TG: Is it the same color as the acid ruler?
EW: No, it’s kind of an aquamarine blue like a swimming pool.
TG: What about tannin?
EW: Tannin is kind of a wooly thing; it’s a textural thing. It’s almost like a piece of wool that’s stretched out and thin at one end and much thicker and larger at the other.
TG: I also notice that you’re going through the scale with your hand. Is that something you have to feel?
EW: It’s a textural thing: how much it is and the texture. Is it gritty? Is it silky? Where is it on the scale and how much?
TG: So it’s a combination of the amount and the texture.
EW: Right, as I’m tasting, it’s almost like I’m taking a piece of Brillo pad and rubbing it against my fingers.
TG: So if it’s a Brillo pad, it’s probably a wine that’s pretty tannic and astringent. What about a wine that’s smooth?
EW: It’s like wet velvet.
TG: It seems like you have your right arm out in front of you and you’ve moving it from left to right and feeling the texture of the wool.
TG: What about the finish? How do you calibrate that?
EW: I like the finish because I get a lot of subtle clues out of it (Her eyes move slightly up and look out over the table).
TG: I noticed that your eyes moved here (points to the location). What’s there?
EW: I guess it’s almost like I’m trying to taste the wine through my sinuses or something. I’m exhaling the finish.
TG: Like retro-nasal breathing?
EW: Yes, I’m doing that and asking, “What’s there?”
TG: OK, but twice you’ve literally looked right up here, slightly above eye level, out and straight ahead. What’s up there?
EW: I’m looking for anything that I haven’t seen in the wine.
TG: The components of the wine?
EW: Yes, sometimes I find something on the finish like, “that’s American oak.”
TG: Would that then become a card?
TG: Getting back to the finish. How do you know how long the finish is? How do you calibrate it? Is it another scale?
EW: Yes, it’s a kind of a scale that goes out in front of me. It’s almost like a road that goes out to the horizon. I’m looking to see how far down the road I can see.
TG: When you taste and look down the road at the finish, does anything move?
EW: No, it’s almost like how far away is the horizon.
TG: How do you know when you’re finished tasting the wine?
EW: I’ve gone through the process with all my cards. Then I sit and do a quick see, smell, and taste through of the wine to see if I’ve missed anything. From there, I ask what makes sense about the wine. I obviously already have a general idea about the wine sitting in my head.
TG: Do you use the cards on the table to match to a specific wine? How would you match the cards to this Pinot Noir we’re tasting?
EW: No, it’s like I have a Pinot Noir card in my hand (holds her left hand out in front of her) and ask if the cards on the table match the list of things on the Pinot card.
TG: So you look at the list of things on your Pinot Noir card and compare it to the cards on the table? If enough of them match, then you internally say yes, this is Pinot Noir?
TG: What happens if the Pinot card doesn’t match?
EW: Then I might set the Pinot card aside and consider other cards. But I always have my first impression card and that’s really important for the
TG: What does the Pinot Noir card look like? Is it just a list of the markers for the grape?
EW: It’s a card with a Burgundy-colored border and the center is white with the list of Pinot things typed out in terms of sight, smell, and palate. It’s literally a check list for Pinot Noir.
TG: Is it playing card size?
TG: If it’s not Pinot Noir, you pull out another card that the wine could be?
EW: Yes, at that point I have a really good idea of the cards I want to bring out to look at to consider for the wine.
TG: Where do the cards come from?
EW: (Pauses and smiles) From my back pocket! At that point, I think that I have Pinot or Gamay or something like that and ask, “Which of these match?” I’m thinking varietal as well as wine. Is it Burgundy? Is it new world?
TG: In terms of Pinot Noir, are there different cards for Central Otago and Carneros?
EW: They all have their own cards. It’s almost like Pinot Noir has a card but Pinot Noir from Beaune has its own card too.
TG: How do all these Pinot cards show up?
EW: It’s almost like a family of cards, the Pinot cards, and that set has a Burgundy border. If it’s the Malbec/Syrah cards, they have a dark purple border. It’s a family of cards.
TG: So it has to do with color.
TG: If it’s white wine, does it have to do with the color as well?
EW: Not necessarily but wines that are grassy and herbal have a green color. Aromatic wines might have a pink border since they are so distinctive and floral.
TG: How do you know you’re finished tasting the wine?
EW: I say this is the card that matches, that feels right. Then I put the card right in front of the wine and move on to the next glass. When I’m done with all the wines I’ll go back and look at all the cards to make sure.
TG: What about age and being able to assign a vintage to a wine?
EW: To me, that’s like theory. It’s about knowing what happened in a particular place, how youthful the wine is, and then matching the two together and asking if it makes sense. It’s combining the sensory thing of feeling the age of the wine with knowing about the year.
TG: Thanks, Emily, it's been amazing to taste with you and deconstruct your system for tasting.