Developing The Palate With Aromas

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - September 28, 2011
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Oozes richness

I often credit my mother for giving me my palate. I remember when I was young she used to ask me to help her prepare our family meals. I would peel certain vegetables, chop them and watch as she would pour them into the pot. I can literally smell in my mind the scent of greens, earth and the food that we cooked in the kitchen. I remember tasting the food while she cooked it and seeing what she added when she didn’t think it tasted just right. I know that at that early age, my palate was already being formed.

This is the same way that everyone’s palate develops. We learn the different aromas, flavors and textures from a very young age. Some would say even what our mothers ate and drank influences our palates from the time we are in the womb. And it influences what we eat and drink for the rest of our days.

While I was training the staff at the Four Seasons Hualalai on the island of Hawaii, we tasted a lovely Chardonnay. I like to get the attendees to talk about the wines themselves instead of telling them what they should be smelling and/or tasting. I give them some keys to look for like fruit, flowers, earth and wood. We were going around the room and one lady looked up from her glass and said that the wine transported her to when she was just a child and she walked into her dad’s work room. Her dad was a cabinet maker. She described the scents of saw dust and wood that filled the room.

At another tasting on Oahu a young server smelled a Riesling and swore that it reminded him of when he goes hiking because the smell of ripe lilikoi was so striking in the wine. I have dozens of stories of how aromas can transport a person to specific memories. But in a way, it is the memory that builds our senses. I have always recommended to novice wine drinkers who want to improve their sense of smell to go out and smell everything! When you go to a market, pick up that fruit and smell it. Buy it and go home and taste it. Do that with vegetables, flowers and anything else you care to taste. We probably all do this to some extent, but doing this when you are younger will help even more.

Really plump flavors

Think about how our children are building their palates and how what we feed them and teach them about food and drink will affect their habits for their lifetimes. I allow my son to smell every wine that I drink in his presence so he gets to know what he smells. I don’t have any grand ambitions for him to become a Master Sommelier, although it would be pretty awesome if he did. But I want him to build his own palate and appreciation for what he eats and drinks.

He helps me cook our meals by peeling carrots and potatoes. He helps me with the blender in the mixing bowl and even loves to make scrambled eggs. Maybe his palate will be even better than mine.

Recommendations: 2009 Vineyard 7&8 Chardonnay ($49) This wine oozes richness like buttercream. It has a full display of poached pear and apples, and a texture you would not believe. This is the crème brulee of the Chardonnay world. 2010 Palmina Dolcetto ($16) Bright, ripe, sweet black cherries, plums and licorice jump from the glass. This has really plump flavors and is delightful with red sauce pasta dishes.

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