Welcome to Mark O’Neill’s Wine Blog


Where are you on your wine journey?

Having ‘looked’ and ‘sniffed’ the wine then we taste. Our palates enable us to identify the different characteristics of the wine; the dryness (totally, semi or sweet), body or weight (light, medium or full), acidity (low, moderate or sharp), with red wine the tannins (soft, dry or very dry), if the wine bitter or sour, whether the wine is balanced with all of the above elements in harmony and finally the aftertaste, does it fade quickly or linger for some time. All this happen on our palates.

Developing a wine tasting palate takes practice by tasting many different wines. We don’t start with finely tuned palates, this comes over time as we become accustomed to the subtleties and nuances of different grape varieties and styles of wines while we also develop our own preferences.

Most people first wine experience is with sweet wines. It could be a semi sweet fizzy Lambrusco or a Semi Sweet Moscatel or a sweet wine such as a Sauternes. The sweetness makes the wine feel soft and the fruit flavours make these wines very easy to drink. Some of these wines are more complex than we first notice, such as Sauternes, and are much more enjoyable when we return to taste them.

The next stage of the journey is when we discover notably fruity wines. Typically a young Merlot, a Garnacha, or a non faked Chardonnay. Soft wines full of ripe fruits flavours that are very easy to identify and enjoy. While the ripe fruit flavours give the sensation of sweetness, the wines are usually dry. It is perfectly OK to ask for a wine that is dry but with ripe fruit flavours.

At this stage of your wine journey you may want to introduce some dry sparkling wines such as a Prosecco from northern Italy, with white stoned fruit and pear flavours.

Further along the road we find that our palates can tolerate wines with more complexity, wines that have been aged in oak barrels and have more body than the lighter fruity styles. These wines have flavours like vanilla, toasted oak and spices alongside the fruit flavours of the particular grapes. A Rioja Reserva, a Chianti Classico from Tuscany, a Shiraz from McLaren Vale in Australia or a Pinotage from South Africa. More powerful and more flavours to discover.

The next phase is for the seasoned wine drinkers who look for elegance and subtleties in wine such as a cool climate Pinot Noir from New Zealand, a Gamay from Beaujolais in France, a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, a Gruner Veltliner from Austria, a Godella from Valdeorras, or an elegant Pouilly Fume from France.

Don’t forget sparkling wines. Champagne or a good Cava will have bready, yeasty flavours that you may not have liked at the start of your wine journey but by now you palate is more refined.

Where are you on your wine journey?

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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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