Thursday, May 3, 2007

TT - 13 ways to develop your wine palette

First you have to understand why some people can enjoy wine tasting and others can't - it boils down to what is in your mouth.
Humans use only a small part of the brain to interpret messages from the nose area - a Dogfish a very large one... Dogfish should be wine tasters.
In 1901 DP Hanig drew up a map of the tongue designating areas where acid, sweet, bitter and salt were tasted. This is being proved to be more complex.
According to Shari Darling -(The Sophisticated Wino:Harmony on the Palate), the nerves in our tongue and the Chorda tympani branch of the facial nerve allow us to have taste and flavor sensations- sourness,sweetness, bitterness and saltiness. While the trigeminal nerves assists us to experience harmful stimuli e.g.pain, they also respond to positive stimuli, such as spiciness, and irritations such as effervescence and carbonation.
The retro-nasal olfaction perceives odours from within the mouth - "when we chew and swallow foods the odors produced are forced up the palate into the nasal cavity."
Put a clothes/diving peg on your nose and you wont tell milk chocolate from cheddar cheese.
The tongues taste buds allow us to experience tastes - and differ according to number (few- you want things spicier, lots- a little seasoning is enough), distribution, and the amount of saliva produced.
So as Janics Robinson says - No one other than you can know how exactly a wine will strike your senses.In other words taste and flavor is individual. A novice's opinion is just as valid as an experts.
Once you have consciously tasted a few wines you like, you can build on that experience and become aware of common characteristics of other wines you like. Putting that together with the profiles of different grape varieties help you pick out wines that appeal to your palette. (Me personally I prefer a crisp dry white Savignon Blanc over a Chardonnay; and a Pinot Noir over a Cab Sav - not my husband)

First make sure you haven't cleaned your teeth - toothpaste taints wine.
To begin you need: -
  • a glass (it's inert and allows for appreciation of appearance) even a tumbler will do as long as it is clear
  • a glass of water or plate of bread cubes (neutralises the mouth - doesn't stop you getting drunk if you swallow everything you taste.)
  • wine
Now to taste:
  • Pour 1/3 to 1/2 glass of wine
  • hold glass by base or stem - said to stop body heat affecting wine
  • look at the wine (least important but necessary if trying to identfy a wine).
  • tilt glass away from you against a white background if possible to expose different shades of color (more is better)
  • study the rim of the wine - this tends to reveal the age of the wine (the browner the older it is. Reds go from deep purple to tawny; whites a pale greenish yellow - deep gold
  • look for a sheen to the wine - good sign; commercial, treated wine tend to look dull
  • Swirl the wine then concentrate and smell it. (You swirl it to release the flavor molecules.) It should smell clean and attractive, note intensity and what it reminds you of.
  • Take a mouthful exposing all of the tongue to the wine. Note how sweet, sour/acid, bitter, tannic/astringent, alcoholic and gassy the wine is. Roll it over you tongue
  • While the wine is in the mouth take in a little air (done when taking sip)- this chewing allows' mouth feel' for you to note things such as rasping, gripping or satin smooth.
  • Now spit it out - yeah don't drink it, this tells the taster from the player
  • Now close your mouth an assess the balance of the wine as a whole compare the sweetness, acidity, alcohol and any bitterness, tannin and gassiness - they should be in balance or does one dominate. In young red tannin often dominates, young white often acidic. Lack of balance could mean the wine is too old.
  • Note how long did the impact of the wine last after you tasted/swallowed it. A mediocre wine may leave little or no trace, whereas a fine wine can still be tasted after 30 seconds of more.
So you tip, swirl, sniff, slurp, and spit... and look thoughtful for a minute - that's all there is to it. Cheers!


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

That's still complicated, lady!

Regardless, I'm game to give it a try... now just got to find someone to go with, and a place for it...

Happy TT! I'm glad you stopped by!

Denise Patrick said...

I've watched tasters before and am amazed. I couldn't spit it out - I love wine too much, it would seem like such a waste, but I suppose if they didn't spit it out, they'd all be drunk.

I was told once that a small amount of salt also cleanses the palate, too - especially after brushing your teeth.

Thanks for the education!

Christine said...

I love tasting new wine - reds not whites. There is something about the fullness of a red that I just love.

I'm going on a retreat this weekend where I'll be "tasting" a lot of wine. :)

Kristin said...

I have always wondered what the proper way to taste wine was. Thanks for the list!

My TT is at

Rhian / Crowwoman said...

i guess putting ice in it and gulping is a no-no too? No wonder everyone looks at me weird in fine restaurants.

Robyn Mills said...

Hey, I just slurp it like the rest of us, my husband and others gave up educating me long ago. Ice cubes... mmmm only if it is REALLY REALLY hot I think.

Qtpies7 said...

So, I could look cool? Really? LOL
Good stuff to know, though! Thanks for the information.

Shelly Kneupper Tucker said...

Now I know what to do...but it's unladylike to expectorate! Guess I'll just have to show I'm a novice and swallow. Great list! Is this all from your research...or did you already know all this?

JennyMcB said...

Okay, guilty here, I am definitely the player and will hangout by the guy pouring the most wine at a wine tasting!

I promise to try....

Fun list, although I should take it seriously.

Di said...

Too much work....I'd rather just sip it, good or bad, while hanging out with my friends!

pussreboots said...

The spitting out bit and the bread are the only two pieces of wine tasting I like. I don't really like wine. :P

Wylie Kinson said...

Like a need an excuse to drink...
Now I'm off to 'practice' the lessons :)
thanks Robyn!! :)