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How Well Do You Know Your Wine Palate?

We all have very different tastes and no matter how good a wine is, it does not mean that everyone is going to like it. This can often be confusing for wine drinkers as they often think that the problem is with them not being able to appreciate a particular wine’s qualities. Therefore knowing your wine palate is very useful when asking for a wine.

When I am making a selection of wines for someone, one of the questions I ask is how they take their coffee in the morning. Knowing this is a good indication of how tolerant a person’s palate is to certain flavours. A strong black coffee without sugar indicates a palate that will be more suited to full bodied wines with more tannin and higher acidity, whereas someone who has a white coffee with two sugars, is an indication of a palate that is more sensitive, consequently the style of wine that is better suited is one that is more aromatic and softer. This is not to say the full bodied wine is better quality than the aromatic, softer wine, it is a question of preference.

How well do you know your palate? There are many different styles of wines and in order to know your palate you have taste them to see how you react to them. If a person is new to wine tasting the slightly sweet wines are a good place to begin as the sweetness makes a wine taste and feel smoother. As wine drinkers gain experience their palates become more fine tuned to more subtle, drier wines. This is the time when you learn that a wine that is fruit flavoured does not necessarily mean that it is sweet. When I am describing a dry white wine as ‘full of citrus and tropical fruit flavours’, quite often the reaction is ‘I don’t want a sweet wine’. Once you know that a wine can have tropical fruit flavours yet to be dry, it can be very helpful when asking for the wines best suited for your palate.

How do you react when sucking a lemon? This is another good indicator in knowing how sensitive your palate is to acidity. Some people quite enjoy the kick of acidity while others recoil in horror. If you are particularly sensitive to acid then it is best to avoid dry wines with high natural acidity, for example, ask for a dry Moscatel instead of an Albariño. However, if the wine is well made it should be in balance and the acidity should not be that noticeable.

As your palate becomes more accustomed to different levels of acidity and tannins, more full bodied, bolder wines can be added to your portfolio of wines. At this stage of knowing your palate, there are many more wines to be considered, such as a fuller bodied Rioja or for something off the beaten track, a Shiraz from Jumilla or from further afield a Syrah from the Northern Rhone.

Knowing the styles of wines best suited for your palate will open up the world of wine to discover new sensations and pleasures.

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I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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