My palate-training journey is much like my exercise regimen. At times it is fun. Sometimes it seems like a chore. I’m often humbled. But the more I do it the better I get (or so I think).
I often tell the story of the well know winemaker I asked about the secret to wine tasting. She smiled and said something along the lines of “sweetheart, there are few true shortcuts in life – you must taste, taste, taste…”. Shucks!
I watch & listen as others taste. And I’m happy to ask questions. I don’t always follow the things I hear, but I have learned some valuable tips.
Today I’m here to tell you that it isn’t mad science – tasting wine can be rather simple…
…ok, maybe not simple. But a really sweet woman (yes, I think women have better palates than men) I met while I was selling wine shared what I consider to be valuable advice. She spoke of the importance of “the start & the end”.
I have heard lots of people speak of the “mid-palate”. In its simplest form, wine has an “attack”, a “mid-palate” & a “finish”.
The attack is how the wine tastes in the front of your mouth when it first passes through your lips. The mid-palate is how it feels as it is IN your mouth (whatever that means). And the finish, AKA the aftertaste is how you feel about the wine one you have spat/swallowed.
When I asked the woman what she meant by “the start & finish” she spoke initially about the aromas of the wine. Were they one-dimensional? Where they common or simple aromas? Or were these aromas unique, complex, and diverse? Interestingly, she put less value on the all important (to some) “mid-palate”, skipping it over and instead concentrating on the finish. Was it pleasant or bitter? Was it hot (from high or out of balance alcohol)? Was it short – a few seconds? Or was it long – did it linger pleasantly for a minute or more?
It has been a few years since this mini wine tasting lesson but I still use this sage advice. While I admittedly enjoy the mouth feel of an oaked wine, I have come to understand that any winemaker can age their wine in oak and give it that full bodied feel. But only the best grapes can contribute to make a wine with pleasant, diverse & interesting aromas (start) as well as a soft, long & pleasurably lingering finish (end).
Happy “start & end” wine tasting!