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The mechanics of tasting

13 Jul 2009 by Jancis Robinson

You may (or may well not) wonder about the mechanics of our going to an external tasting and getting the tasting notes on to this site as efficiently as possible.

More and more we take our laptops to professional wine tastings so as to NewWaveSpainLavoid laborious transcription, but you can imagine that this is an exercise fraught with practical problems. Julia's Mac has a usefully powerful battery but that of my Dell Latitude lasts a couple of hours at best, so I have to take a spare and/or a power cord, which can involve some very unseemly rooting around looking for sockets and, occasionally, some rather perilous potential tripping points (see pictures).

It is rare that there is enough room for a laptop on the table on which the bottles are presented, and even when the bottles are not too close together, the table is usually punishingly low for a human back, so I tend to go scouting for an empty wine box to lean on.

NewWaveSpainCUPWhen I got to the New Wave Spain tasting described in Best of Spain's New Wave? last week, I found that the organisers had very kindly already organised a trolley for me and my laptop, which was extremely convenient - although I still needed a box to avoid backache (see left). And unfortunately the tasting was held in The Worx, Parson's Green, which is a photographic studio so there was a power point only at one end of the long, white room.

Again, the organisers were extremely co-operative and managed to connect me to that power source via a massive extension lead. I'm sure I was a thorough nuisance for my long-suffering fellow tasters. Any moment now I feel I will be moving towards a wheelchair and an amanuensis, but in the meantime I thought you might be amused by these pictures of your correspondent at work last week.

You can find what I wrote on the trolley and box in New Wave Spanish tasting notes.


Very many thanks for all these super-practical suggestions which I will investigate.

Bob, this Latitude is the D430 and about 15 months old. I give it such a bashing that I think I'm on keyboard number four now...  Will look into Assus etc.

5 Aug 2009 09:32 by Jancis Robinson

Goodness me, is your Latitude still going? I think you should look at a 'netbook'  - Assus Ee PCs are typically half the size and weight of a laptop - around 1 Kg only. They have a proper keyboard and also typically have up to 8 hours battery time.  Mind you, they don't come with an integrated spitoon.

13 Jul 2009 19:16 by Bob Brooks

Digital recordings sounds such a great idea, but I dread to imagine the din of a roomful of winetasters all speaking tasting notes into their recorders!  And I think I would be embarassed to be overheard muttering about lively acidity and bright fruit.  So maybe not the perfect solution after all. However, there is surely a trend to greater invasion of technology into the tasting room - a new challenge for the organizers to facilitate perhaps? I've recently bought one of those trendy mini laptops known as a netbook - lighter to transport and easier to manoeuvre around the tasting room.  It's a great first step, but working out the best program to keep all those tasting notes catalogued is still a work in progress.  I'm currently giving Excel a go - but I'm sure the more computer-literate out there have cleverer suggestions!

13 Jul 2009 16:02 by Heather Dougherty

I use a digital voice recorder and later convert the notes to text using Dragon 10 Naturally Speaking.  It is still a pain however trying to balance glassware, recorder and palate with the jossling at the tasting table.  European tastings are much more civilized than those in North America.

13 Jul 2009 13:50 by W John Switzer

Yes, Jancis, the iPhone keyboard requires some training - new OS version (3.0) enables also the horizontal keyboard, in some applications: it's easier to use, believe me.

13 Jul 2009 11:17 by Giampiero Nadali

And someone to write the tasting notes for one, Ben... Plus do the swilling and spitting of course.  

I think with a bit of ingenuity I could eliminate the need to go to any tastings ever again...

Great tip, Giampiero, for which many thanks, though that iPhone keyboard needs pretty accurate fingers, doesn't it?

13 Jul 2009 10:29 by Jancis Robinson

In these occasions, where it's very diffucult to use a laptop, I prefer to use an iPhone 3G with a database based on Bento. It's very easy to adapt or import any other database you may have, and you can share data between the laptop and the iPhone. Smart and easy to use. Also for taking tasting notes in a more not-structured format.

13 Jul 2009 10:17 by Giampiero Nadali

Now that is great! I wich the "spain wine tastings" I go to here in Spain would be so accomadating!

13 Jul 2009 10:04 by Ryan Opaz

Hi, it seems to me that there is definitely a market for a 'tastomatic' all in one laptop / trolley complete with spitoon, glassholder and live twitter feed. On the other hand, if all those people in the above pic were on trolleys, could get quite congested...

13 Jul 2009 09:54 by Ben Smith

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