Training your wine palate requires consistency, dedication, and a lot of practice. It is a skill that must be honed through hours of tasting and through noting and memorizing the smaller nuances that make different vintages and grape varietals distinct. While there are those who have a naturally attuned wine palate, wine tasting skills should and can be developed.
In this article, we will provide simple techniques and tips that you can use to help strengthen your ability to discern notes of fruit, floral, earthy, herbal and so much more.
The Art of Wine Tasting: Why a Developed Palate is Key
The palate is triggered by four senses: sight, smell, feel (texture) and taste. In order to prime your palate, you need to ensure that you are fully engaged with each of these senses during the wine tasting experience. Only once you have mastered the skill of harmonizing all of the aforementioned senses, then you will notice an improvement in your ability to better detect various aromas and notes more easily.
Properly tasting wine should bring an elevated experience to your enjoyment of the product. That is why practicing and developing your palate is key in taking that enjoyment to the next level. Once you have mastered these wine tasting skills, you will notice your taste preferences broadening which will open your eyes, mind and palate to a wider range of wine.
Wine Tasting Skills: Tips for Training Your Palate
Whether you are tasting at an event, in the comfort of your own home or with a group of friends, there are helpful tips and techniques you can use as part of wine palate training. These exercises will allow you to hone your analytical wine skills as well as refine your wine vocabulary.
Follow Your Nose
A wine’s smell will play a large role in your perception of the wine before your glass even reaches your lips. Sniffing your wine prior to tasting will give you an immediate sense of a wine’s aroma. Having said that, it is essential to swirl your wine glass first as this will introduce oxygen and therefore, the aromas will open up.
Once the wine has been aerated, you can proceed to experience the aromas more profoundly. As part of developing your wine palate, training your nose to decipher between savoury and sweet notes such as spices or fruit aromas will tremendously improve your confidence in a tasting.
To train your nose, take time to smell fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs at a grocery or market. This will help with building a catalogue of smells in your mind as the olfactory system is linked to memory and this will really help you in identifying them when wine tasting.
Take Some Air With Each Sip
Since some flavours in a wine are only triggered in the presence of oxygen, you must learn the art of aspiration. This requires you to take a small sip of the wine and suck a bit of air into your mouth at the same time. But be careful not to choke!
While it may feel uncomfortable at first, eventually you will discover how much more of a wine’s flavour you can taste. This will also allow you to pick up on aromas that you may have missed initially. More detailed identification of aromas and flavours will allow you to recognize more aspects about how the wine was made, such as the use of oak or if there is any residual sugar left in the wine.
Isolate and Identify Flavours
Visualization exercises are ideal for allowing you to hone your ability to isolate and identify particular flavours and aromas. This is no different than an athlete visualizing themselves perfecting a skill in their mind as practice. Many sommeliers use the technique of blind tasting to help them identify the aromatic profile that makes up a wine’s identity.
For example, when tasting a Chianti, on the first taste you may detect a hint of roses. By visualizing while you smell and taste, you are then able to isolate other flavours such as red cherries or spices. It is important to note that once you identify an aroma, ask yourself what other nuances are present. This will ensure that you don’t isolate just one aroma or flavour and forget the rest.
Pay Attention to Body and Texture
The flavour profile of wine doesn’t just encapsulate notes of fruit, flowers, herbs and spices. A wine’s texture and body also add to a wine’s identity. Paying attention to the texture of the wine, such as whether it has a round filling, oily or silky mouthfeel or whether it has high acidity (makes the mouth water and tingles your back taste buds) and tannin levels (grippy, astringent feeling you get with red wines) is another essential area that needs practice in order to develop your wine palate.
Refine Your Wine Vocabulary
Lastly, actively taking notes during a wine tasting is beneficial for both building and refining your wine vocabulary. While there is no wrong way to describe a wine, you may find that wines you once referred to as being sweet are in fact fruit-forward or oaky and are in fact dry.
Remember, notes on a wine tasting should feature not only the aromatic profile but also include the wine’s body, acidity level, tannins (for red), and alcohol level. Knowing how to decipher and verbalize these aspects of wine will breed confidence and natural tasting instincts.
Wine Tasting Requires Practice
Developing your wine palate is a multi-sensory experience and will inevitably require plenty of practice with various wines. Over time, you will develop a palatal memory that will allow you to detect differences in vintages, aromatic profiles and winemaking techniques.
Another objective should be to have fun with it. Improvement of wine tasting skills won’t happen overnight, but once you find yourself identifying key elements of specific wines your confidence will build and enjoying wine will become that much more fun!
Here at The Small Winemakers Collection, we stock a wide range of fine wines from winemaking regions all over the world. Browse our online wine collection today and prepare to enjoy your next great glass.