A Wine Lover’s Evolving Palate

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - June 16, 2006
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I have a very dear friend who has been drinking wine for a while. And I’ve noticed that over the past three to five years he has started to really pay attention to what he drinks and what he buys. He has also started to refine his drinking habits to certain styles of wine that he would have never even looked to try when he was first starting to drink wine.

It made me think about the evolution of wine drinkers’ palates.

I went through a similar evolution over the years. When I first started drinking wine, I was really into the BIG, LOUD wines, the ones that normally have higher alcohols and garner the high scores from wine critics. But as I continued to drink them, especially with food, I noticed that they quite often became taxing on my palate. The tannins are quite strong, the flavors too bold at times. They didn’t seem to go very well with a lot of foods and it became apparent to me that they were really wines that were made to get points, not to be drunk with food. They are show wines. Just like show cars. They’re not meant to ride the road, but were made to be showcased at a competition. Of course, all wine is made to be drunk, but there are wines that I have had a hard time drinking because they were “over the top.”

Luckily there is so much to try and I got to trying plenty of them. Wines with finesse, complexity, intensity and an affinity for food touched my palate more sensitively. They showed me the grace and harmony that can be found with an elegant wine and a large array of food. These wines can be better balanced,lending themselves better to be drunk with food.

And finally I found wines that speak about a specific place. Wined that not only satisfy my thirst and my desire for flavor, but wines that tells me stories of where they come from. These wines often come from the old world where the wine is actually named after where it comes from and not the grape that goes into making it.

I certainly drink and enjoy all types of wine, including the behemoths and mammoths of the wine world, but I seem to gravitate towards the more refined and delicate. And that is where my palate is now.

I’ve had many other mature wine lovers describe a similar path to their palate evolutions over the course of many years. But our palates change even on a daily basis. So many things have an effect on our palates. It can depend on if you had enough rest, enough water, what you ate the meal before, what you’re eating now and even what cologne or perfume people are wearing around you, or how much money is in your pocket. The list goes on.

We certainly make adjustments in our wine selections from day to day, but over the long haul, most people will end up with their favorite style of wine that they would rather have before any other. And not everyone’s palate will evolve in the same manner.

But we’re all lucky there is such a huge selection of wines that there is something for everyone.

Recommendations for people who like it loud!

2003 Caymus Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon $115

This is one of the recently released mammoths. Hugely concentrated, rich, heavy with mega-doses of fruit and vanillin. Not for the faint of palate.

For people who like a stimulating, cerebral conversation.

2004 Lucien Boillot Pommard $35

This Burgundian Pinot Noir is soothing, and delicious. It has a beautiful perfume and silky texture. Lovely.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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