The Bubbly Professor on Tim Gaiser’s Message in the Bottle

Photo of Tim Gaiser, MS by Kelly McCarthy

I recently read a book on wine tasting. As a sworn wine afficionado, it’s probably the 100th wine book I’ve read. However, this one—Message in the Bottle: A Guide to Tasting Wine by Tim Gaiser, MS—was special.

First of all, I’ve known Tim for about 20 years and have—on many occasions—had the pleasure of being in the audience as he gave a presentation on the intricacies of wine tasting. Tim has contributed much to subject of tasting and has given the crowded field of wine expertise a truly original perspective. Tim Gaiser is—in my humble opinion—one of the best wine educators in the world.

I am not in any way qualified to review books. I don’t know anything about writing styles, theme development, or the needs of the target audience. However, I can tell you that I learned a lot from this book, and that the book simplified some concepts—such as the subjective vs. the objective in wine tasting—that truly needed simplifying. (Before you think that means that this is an easy book, please note that simplifying something is extremely difficult. In the words of Steve Jobs, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”)

Before I go too far down that rabbit hole, here are a few things I learned from Tim Gaiser’s book:

We may never solve for the objective vs. the subjective in wine tasting, but Tim’s book has a notable take on the matter: Some things are objective and measurable (sediment, clarity, alcohol by volume); some things are subjective (aromatic intensity, flavors, balance)—and never the twain shall meet. However, Tim points out that even truly subjective concepts can be described and discussed by defining the extremes (nothing vs a large amount) and working from there. For instance, bitterness in wine can be non-existent (like a bowl of vanilla pudding), or extreme (like a double shot of espresso). Describing a specific wine as somewhere on that continuum is a way of combining the objective with the subjective (and might just limit the number of fist-fights to break out at tonight’s Valpolicella tasting).

There’s a tech sheet manifesto: I use wine tech sheets all the time and suggest their use to all of my students. Beginners will often ask what a tech sheet is, and I stumble all over an explanation which turns out to be something like “winemaker’s notes that may or may not tell you what you want to know.” While this sad fact is unlikely to change anytime soon, Tim’s book contains a meticulous wish list of what a tech sheet would, could, and should be. It includes basics such as grape variety, sweetness, pH, and level of alcohol (which are all-too-often missing) and well as more telling factoids such as vineyard elevation, ripeness levels at harvest, and cases produced. It’s a well-thought-out checklist, and if I thought it would work, I’d start a Change(dot)org petition to bring Tim’s Tech Sheet Manifesto to life.

Using associative rehearsal, you can improve your tasting skills without wine: Using a form of active recall to describe a specific type or style of wine (without the wine in front of you) is a great study technique; it’s been around a while and many wine educators refer to this practice as writing a dry tasting note. Tim has several meaty pages of advice for associative rehearsal/dry tasting notes, which—if followed—promise to help the student connect with and cement their knowledge of specific wines from tastings past. If you—like most wine students—have amassed a mountain of tasting notes and have a hard time remembering which wine is which, this advice is for you.

Impact compounds impact more than a wine’s aroma: I appreciate the concept of impact compounds, and love to wax poetic about the rosy notes of terpenes, the black pepperiness derived of rotundone, and the simple explanation as to why your wine may smell of gasoline (TDN).  Tim’s book explains the origin of impact compounds—which might be grape chemistry, the vineyard itself,  winemaking magic, or who knows what else. More importantly, what I gained from this section is the knowledge that these tricky little chemical groupings can be a key tool in detecting and recognizing specific varietals or regions-of-origin. In other words, if you want to develop your wine recognition/blind tasting skills, impact compounds are your new best friends.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in refining their wine tasting skills or exploring the philosophy of wine. There’s a lot here for advanced tasters, but plenty of space is dedicated developing the beginner’s palate as well.

Message in the Bottle: A Guide to Tasting Wine by Tim Gaiser, MS (Newworlding Publishing, 2022) is available on You can contact Tim via his well-read blog at

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

2 Responses to The Bubbly Professor on Tim Gaiser’s Message in the Bottle

  1. kkdiabetes says:

    A quote attributed to Albert Einstein…


    One of my favorites…

    Thank you so much for sending your reference to Mr Gaiser’s book!


    • bubblyprof says:

      Thanks for reading! I truly love Tim’s book. The quote you mention is often attributed to Einstein, but there’s no succinct source, and its unclear whether or not he truly said it. However, Einstein is quoted as saying the following: “If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn’t have been worth the Nobel Prize.” I guess both can be true!

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