29 October 2010

Book Review: The Wine Journal by Jennifer McCartney

There are lots of ways to keep your wine notes. One of the worst ways is to jot down scribblings on the backs of receipts and envelopes and throw them in your pocket, because then you forget and discard them later.

A dedicated wine book isn't mandatory, but if you set your keys on it during a tasting you're not liable to leave it behind. Also, in theory you can keep several volumes over the years and collect them on your bookshelf. And while taking notes on a laptop can be expeditious, there's always that worry about spillage. A few bucks worth of Chardonnay can turn a $1000 laptop into a $0 paperweight. It doesn't matter if you have a wine blog or merely enjoy wine--if you take a few minutes to transcribe your thoughts about each bottle you try, you'll learn a lot about wine within a year.

One such printed wine book is The Wine Journal by Jennifer McCartney. $10.36, Skyhorse Publishing, 272 pages.

The first 30 pages are just some basic wine terms and a few quotes. The remainder of the book is comprised of pages set up for taking notes.

In the photo to the right, you can see that I tested the book with a multitude of writing implements. (For the record, this got me laughed at during a wine tasting. Not the book, the fact that I wrote "Test of Writing Implements".)

The pages in this book are glossy stock, thicker than regular book pages. What you're writing on is the kaolin coating, not the wood-based paper itself. I could get into a whole discussion on substrates, but this isn't a printing blog and I'm not going to go into how tentacular polymers adhere to certain stocks. Let's just say that my background in printing means that I know a lot about paper and ink. I wrote on the page using five different common writing tools: Sharpie, pencil, mechanical pencil, ballpoint pen, gel ink pen. I let everything sit with the book open for 30 minutes, did a smear test with my thumb, and everything worked except for the gel. The rollerball style pens are going to smear on this kind of stock.

That being said, I like the size and look of this book--it will fit into your pants pockets or purse, and there's enough room in the various categories to write out what you're tasting. Particularly "Shared With"--it's something I often leave off the blog for privacy reasons, but it's nice to look back over your notes and remember with whom you enjoyed a certain bottle. Consider this another possible wine gift for the upcoming Christmas season, especially for those wine lovers who are just starting out.

Note: This book was received as a sample.


Kimberly said...

Having a wine journal is a good idea, and something I've always meant to take up. I have a little notebook I keep with me for that purpose, but I hardly ever get it out when I'm tasting in public!

As a sentimental, I love the idea of writing down who you taste with, it's great for when you look back over the notes months and years later. What I do along those lines is write on the cork from the wine the names of the folks I shared it with, and the date, and keep the corks in a lovely glass vase. And sometimes I actually pour them all of the vase and look at each of them and have a memory fest! Of course, Stelvin closures make that a little more challenging. ;)

Benito said...


That's a great idea for keeping the old corks! I throw all of mine into an old box in my closet. Don't know what I'm ever going to do with them, but it's a habit at this point.

Most of the time I use a tattered old moleskine notebook. I've got a really beautiful hardback, leather-bound wine journal that I got as a gift from a friend, but it's so nice that I feel bad writing in it sometimes. This little one that I wrote about is a good compromise, and it's not that expensive. Plus, it will last you for around 250 wines or so.


Athalia said...

It seems like a wrth reading book for me :), thanks for reviewing.