How to impress your dinner date with a refined wine palate
You don’t have to be a sommelier to perfect your wine palate. The more you experiment with wine’s many flavours, aromas and textures, the more you will be able to distinguish one from the next. As you continue tasting and sampling — with the characteristics of wine in mind — the more refined your preferences will become, no matter which shiraz or riesling you reach for.
Your wine palate refers to your ability to distinguish the many characteristics of wine (which can be found in this guide if you need a refresher). Once you understand the basics, there are many ways to develop your palate as you fall deeper in love with wine tasting, sampling and pairing.
What does it mean to develop a palate?
Your wine palate refers to your ability to detect the flavours and aromas in each bottle. Someone with a refined wine palate will be able to identify the layered flavours and complexities so they can more easily compare one bottle with another.
For example, someone with a refined palate can identify the primary citrus in a fruity mix or name the prominent spicy notes in a glass of red. This skill comes with practice (and many wine samples), but there are a few intentional methods to sharpen your technique.
Some connoisseurs keep the 5 S’s in mind when wine tasting:
- See. Consider the colour, body, and viscosity of the wine.
- Swirl. Swirl your glass to give it air and visualise the wine’s legs.
- Sniff. Smell before you sip, which is the main sense used in wine tasting.
- Sip. Finally, time for a taste. Sip slowly and intentionally as you consider the flavours.
- Savour. Find complexities in each sip, and consider how the flavour changes as it sits in your mouth.
How do you develop a wine palate?
1. Visualise and identify.
Wine tasting begins before you take your first sip. As you hold and swirl your glass, check out the wine’s legs and body — which features of the wine are already apparent? For example, a slow drip around the glass will prime you to expect thicker viscosity, while a sparkling wine’s characteristics clearly stand out.
2. Look, smell, then taste.
Raise your glass, but don’t sip yet. Aromas play a large part in wine tasting, so first identify wine with your nose. Which flavours and aromas are obvious? Which are more subdued? What do you expect it to taste like? Take a moment and think about it because you’re refining your wine palate as you do.
3. Take it slow.
Picture yourself savouring a chocolate truffle, letting it melt slowly in your mouth so you can revel in the flavour. This is the technique you will use when developing your wine palate: allow each sip to sit in your mouth so you can slowly absorb its flavours and identify its complexities. Pause and allow your senses to take over.
4. Note the flavours and textures.
Through each slow sip, pay attention to how the flavours develop and change each second. The wine may begin with one strong flavour, then slowly shift to reveal its complexities. Identify each flavour or aroma, then ask yourself: what else is here? Move beyond flavours to identify the wine’s texture, acidity, tannin and viscosity. Where does each texture hit your mouth?
5. Build your wine memory.
Each moment you spend analysing and practising the art of tasting wine will develop your palate. The next time you pour a glass, you will have memories of smoky cedar from the last cabernet sauvignon you tasted as you compare it to your pinot noir.
This is the process of developing your wine palate, so enjoy every moment (and sip) of the journey. For a curated collection, stop by the Little Prince Wine shop.