Discovering my palate.....

A section for those relatively new to wine, 'geeks in training', and for common wine topics
Post Reply
Message
Author
JonT
Posts: 3
Joined: November 1st, 2016, 5:04 pm

Discovering my palate.....

#1 Post by JonT » November 2nd, 2016, 11:02 am

Hey everyone,

First post and I'm hoping you all can help me out a little. I want to hear from people that can talk about wine what it is exactly that I like. I know very well what I like when I taste it, but I feel I lack the "wine vocabulary" to express it to others. This makes it very hard to find new wines I like and to try different wines. I also have a terrible memory, so even if I do try a wine I like at a restaurant, I rarely remember it the next day.

I will start with what I DON'T like. Growing up my mom always drank french wine and those were my first impressions of wine. She mostly drank Cotes Du Rhone and I'm pretty sure I even tried a few expensive Chateauneuf Du Pape. I always thought I simply did not like wine because I could not find anything enjoyable in these wines. I found them excessively dry and flavorless. I'm sure that will make many wine lovers cringe, so I will instead say that I could not find any flavors I found pleasant.

Then in my mid 20s I decided again to try wine and after a bunch of what I still did not really enjoy, I tried a Nebbiolo D'alba that I loved. The only words that I can think of to describe this wine is fruity, juicy, and bold. It had tons of flavor and it was so easily drinkable compared to those french wines. Killed that bottle no problem, first time I had ever had the desire for more than a glass of wine. Since then I have tried to find wines that were as good, mostly sticking to the Italian wines. I found some Barbera D'Alba that I found drinkable, but not as good as the Nebbiolo. I tried more expensive Piedmont reds and got a couple Barbaresco's, but oddly enough I did not like these nearly as much as the Nebbiolo, they again seemed too dry. I do not believe I have had a Barolo. Outside of the Piedmont region, other grapes I have found enjoyable are Spanish wines mostly consisting of Granacha. I recently went to the Purple Pig in Chicago and had a Pertinace Nebbiolo Langhe, which I enjoyed and a 100% Granacha wine I do not remember the name of. Yet again, I can only describe these wines as fruity and juicy, the Garnacha was the better of the two and had big, bold flavors. So......can anyone help me determine what I should describe to a sommelier or wine enthusaist? Or even recommend a few wines for me that would be great. Thanks.

User avatar
Ian Sutton
Posts: 5194
Joined: March 6th, 2014, 2:19 pm
Location: Norwich, UK

Discovering my palate.....

#2 Post by Ian Sutton » November 2nd, 2016, 4:53 pm

Jon
Welcome and a fine first post.

Wine vocabulary can be genuinely scary, and the same for many when a wine list is thrust upon them to make a choice. It's really sad how wine ended up this way, but it's how it is, so it's up to each of us to help others realise it's far simpler when you recognise you'll never know everything, so instead we should recognise what we do know and have an open mind to new experiences.

For the restaurant thing, if someone has a mobile phone on them, get them to take a photo. As well as having something to look up afterwards, there is software out there that will identify most wines from a photo of the label. Hopefully someone will chime in with the app(s) that do this.

Nebbiolo wines, especially the bigger wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco can be a tough challenge to start with. The Nebbiolo d'Alba sounds like it was all about the fruit, made in a style that avoided drying (and perhaps bitter) tannins from grape skin & pips. The tannins in Barolo/Barbaresco are part of extracting 'more' from the grapes, and (blimey I'm oversimplifying here!) that style of winemaking makes wines that often last longer. Eventually those tannins melt away - a decade or three later, hopefully leaving something that should still resemble the original wines, but now is more delicate and allows different flavours and aromas to emerge. The nebbiolo probably has a reasonably quick fermentation in a stainless steel tank and thus is closer to the flavour of the fruit itself. It won't last decades but would be the choice of Italians to drink young, pretty much always with food.

As such I reckon you're very fairly describing your feelings - the Nebbiolo was more fun to drink young than a Barbaresco, not least because the Barbaresco may have dried your mouth out - hardly good for refreshment! If you ever see an old Barolo or Barbaresco, then give it a try. Not all emerge healthy from their slumber, but when they emerge well, they can be quietly breathtaking, not bold or brash, but interesting and enticing.

Garnacha/Grenache (plus other names in other countries) is widely grown, so you'll see US versions, Aussie versions etc. etc. but in addition many wines have it in their blend. The ironic thing is that Grenache often forms a large proportion of Cotes du Rhone wines and is also commonly found in Chateauneuf du Pape.... but before you start doubting your palate, relax. The different blends, growing conditions and winemaking can make two wines taste radically different when grown with the same grape!

Wines to go for / Ask a wine store / sommelier for?
At this stage it sounds like you prefer nice bright fruit and want to drink it now, so nothing overly structured. From the wines you've liked I don't think you're at all stressed about 'refreshing' acidity, so it allows you to trade up from wines where acidity is kept low to make them softer (but to many palates - duller as a result). If you agree with that description, then by all means share it with someone in a wine shop / restaurant and if they are enthusiastic / knowledgeable, it should help them come up with a few options. If you think of anything else, or change your mind, just share those views with that person.

Wines to recommend?
- US & Aussie Rhone grape blends (sometimes labelled GSM for Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre) which have a long history and may make a lovely full circle to those Rhone wines, because the same grape mix may shine for you in their hands, because they have often been better at showcasing the fruit
- Primitivo/Zinfandel. Whilst the alcohol can get silly at times, the brightness/intensity of the fruit is a calling card for wines made from this grape. A huge US tradition and many variations on the theme. The aficionados here will be able to suggest loads
- Mount Etna reds (from Sicily) especially Frappato which can be a bundle of joyous refreshing fruit. This area has gone from obscurity 10 years ago to really quite trendy now, so you might just see a few around.
- Dolcetto, also from Italy. The name is effectively 'little sweet one' and the grapes are certainly juicy sweet. Almost all should be drunk young and adorn many everyday dining tables in Italy.
- Beaujolais. Not the gimmicky nouveau, but a Beaujolais villages or better still one from one of ten (I think) villages allowed their own name - confusingly meaning it's not obvious what it is. Fleurie, Julienas, Moulin a vent, St Amour, Morgon, Brouilly, Chiroubles and Chenas are ones I can remember off the top of my head. These wines will be lighter than most, but a good village wine has surprisingly good staying power.
- Mencia from Spain, not a grape I know an awful lot about, but a recent bottle seems like it might have been right in the style you've enjoyed
- Rioja Crianza which is typically younger & brighter than the oakier reserva and Gran riserva Rioja wines. The Spanish drink loads (and of 'Joven' Rioja which we rarely see) whilst us foreigners tend to buy the riservas and gran riservas. However one Gran Riserva I will suggest keeping an eye out for is the 2001 Faustino I Gran Riserva. It has genuinely massive production scale and there is probably stacks still around in many mainstream stores. It won some wine award (avoid believing the hype of wine awards/points and your palate will thank you and reward you for believing in it). Despite that, it's a wonderfully affordable insight into what more austere wines can end up like. It's relatively light in body, still with decent fruit, not much oak flavour, and the fruit has started to show how it changes flavour with ageing. I reckon it would be ~ $20 in the US market (it's £12-16 in the UK). The 2004 is the most recent vintage, and I see broadly reasonable notes, but the 2001 has pretty consistently been a good example of 'why' some of us like ageing wines.

I hope this gives a few useful leads, and some confidence to ask what you're asking which is very much the right questions.

Finally, don't let anyone tell you wine A is better than wine B, or that you shouldn't like what you like. Your own palate is the best palate in the world for judging the wines you like to drink.

regards
Ian

p.s. if you ever want to explore ways to describe wine, I'd suggest two good tools. The first is free, a tasting sheet devised by an Aussie called Ric Einstein who used to run a website under the pseudonym TORB (the other red bigot - his mate Brian was called Red Bigot). His tour diaries of visiting Aussie wine regions are an absolute hoot (as well as being informative). Here's the link to the tasting sheet http://www.torbwine.com/images/Torb%20T ... 0Sheet.pdf which is basically a multiple choice affair, just circle what you think matches the wine and it helps build up a 'wine vocabulary' in the process.

The other resource is a book called 'Winetasting' by Simon Schuster. It's nicely written but well structured, explaining why stuff tastes like it does and how to recognise certain familiar aromas / tastes.
Normal for Norfolk

JonT
Posts: 3
Joined: November 1st, 2016, 5:04 pm

Discovering my palate.....

#3 Post by JonT » November 3rd, 2016, 6:48 am

WOW! I cannot thank you enough Ian. You hit the nail on the head in every way. It is funny to see someone be able to describe my thoughts better than I could with only a few sentences of background information. It makes absolute sense that I was not comparing the wines appropriately. A 2012 Nebbiolo opened in 2015 and a 2012 Barbaresco opened in 2015 was an ill comparison as one is meant to be drunk young and the other meant to be aged. I will have to give a Barolo that has been allowed to age for quite some time a shot, if I can get my hands on one.

Also, great tip on the photos in restaurants. I need to do this for wines AND beers. I cannot even tell you how many times I have tried an amazing craft beer on tap, only to completely blank on what I had tried the following day.

I am going to give some of your wine recommendations a try and hopefully post some impressions as I go. Thanks again!

If anyone else has recommendations that fall into the same spectrum, please feel free to post. The more options, the merrier.

ykwon
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 839
Joined: November 29th, 2014, 9:10 am
Location: The Big D

Discovering my palate.....

#4 Post by ykwon » November 3rd, 2016, 1:42 pm

Ian, you are the man! Or is it mate. Regardless awesome job on this thorough walk thru!
y 0 n 9
k w 0 n

User avatar
Ian Sutton
Posts: 5194
Joined: March 6th, 2014, 2:19 pm
Location: Norwich, UK

Discovering my palate.....

#5 Post by Ian Sutton » November 3rd, 2016, 1:55 pm

Hi Jon
You're welcome, and indeed I'll echo your hope that others will post. A single opinion is of modest benefit, but a range of opinions can give greater insight. Traffic is often slow on this sub-forum, but people will swing by irregularly and I'd also be interested in hearing their views.

regards
Ian

p.s. In order to help others post ideas, are you US based or in a different country. The wines I see in the UK are often quite a bit different to what an Aussie or American or Canadian might see.
Normal for Norfolk

Vinod S.
Posts: 162
Joined: September 18th, 2012, 4:08 pm

Discovering my palate.....

#6 Post by Vinod S. » November 3rd, 2016, 6:01 pm

Assuming your U.S. Based, I'd recommend exploring the following regions:
-Sonoma/CA Pinot Noir
-Nebbiolo/Barbera d'Alba from Piedmont
-Non-classified Bordeaux
-CA Cabernets outside of Napa (maybe Lake District-Educated Guess is a good entry level option)
-Agree with Rioja

All of the above styles have wines that range from larger than life fruit forward, high oak, high alcohol styles to more reserved, nuanced flavor profiles. I think the best way to learn is to go to wine tastings at a local store and talk to staff. I would also flag that a common preference is for the "bigger" wines in side by side tastings because your palate can get fatigued, so always worth checking in a blind setting or with a meal later on before buying cases.
Vinod Stalam
Booth 2015

User avatar
Bryan Carr
Posts: 417
Joined: December 28th, 2015, 10:56 am
Location: Seattle, WA

Discovering my palate.....

#7 Post by Bryan Carr » November 16th, 2016, 10:14 am

Seconding the recommendations for New World Cabernet, honestly the less expensive would probably be better for you right now as it seems you don't enjoy the sensation of tannin very much. More expensive cabs tend to have more tannin. Garnacha is usually fruit forward and not very tannic, and Barbaresco tends to be more tannic than regular Nebbiolo which is probably why you didn't like it as much. Zinfandel is also a good recommendation as it is quite bold without much tannin. Washington Syrah could be a good pick if it is available in your area as the more affordable ones are made in a fruity, more plush style. CA Pinot Noir is a good pick too as it is very light on tannin but full of fruit.
CT: the_lovenest

Travis_Hull
Posts: 9
Joined: December 9th, 2016, 10:45 am

Discovering my palate.....

#8 Post by Travis_Hull » December 10th, 2016, 1:01 pm

I'll second the recommendation on Beaujolais. Very primary fruit focused wines and generally meant for immediate consumption. I like mine slightly chilled. Anything imported by Kermit lynch is stellar.

Bill S.
Posts: 36
Joined: September 5th, 2017, 6:15 pm

Discovering my palate.....

#9 Post by Bill S. » October 19th, 2017, 6:47 pm

First thing is wine app's. Vavino, Delectable and Corkz are all good and offer public ratings and tasting notes to view. One difference is that Corkz is the app for CellarTracker.com and allows you to take pictures of either the UPC bar code or the front label. With the app's if it says item not found there is a way to add the wine to the data base.

Second thing is your local wine shop. Find one with a good selection and a knowledgable staff. Get to know one of the wine sells people and ask for them every time you go in. Describe what you like (they are pretty good, or should be, at figuring out what you should like from your description of things you have liked before and what you haven't). Take plenty of notes on the wines you try and bring them with you when you return so they can narrow down the choices. The wine app's are great for this since pretty much everyone has a smart phone these days.

As Ian stated taste every chance you get, you may not like the samples but you will learn more and more about your taste.

CA zinfandel as mentioned above is a good choice, especially the more entry level ones, the higher priced ones can get tannic but they still have great fruit.

CA pinot noir especially central coast or sonoma coast. I would wait a bit before trying a Oregon pinot noir unless you can find a sub $15 one.

You have already discovered Spain and Italy although I didn't see anyone mention Valpolicella or Valpolicella Ripasso. I would suggest the former first to see if you like it. Also try Negroamaro if you can find it.

CA cabernets was mentioned above and I agree although I would have you stay with the central coast or North coast areas for now.

If you can find a 10 year old (or older) right bank bordeaux it would be worth a try. These are mostly merlot and softer than the left bank bordeaux. The problem is finding one that age without spending the house payment on one.

CA red blend tend to be softer and have more fruit so those would be worth exploring also.

From my experience you should stay mostly in the sub $20 a bottle price range for now. Once you and your wine sellers have a firm handle on your taste they should be able to suggest more expensive wines to try. I am ITB (in the business) and I tell my customers to return any bad bottles or even the ones they just don't like for a refund or exchange. Also, if they suggest a bottle and you don't like it because it is to dry (tannic), leave it till tomorrow and try it again. You will be surprised what a little air time will do to that dry wine.

[cheers.gif]
Bill Stell ITB

Steve Slatcher
Posts: 201
Joined: July 24th, 2010, 2:17 pm

Discovering my palate.....

#10 Post by Steve Slatcher » October 20th, 2017, 5:46 am

Good advice from Ian there. Just a few things to add...

I think you do pretty well with wine vocabulary, JohnT. Just a word of warning though - when wine people say "dry" they usually mean "not sweet". I think Ian was right, though - you meant the wine had drying tannins. That is also called astringency. Feel free to use your own language if you want, but at least be aware of the possible misunderstandings.

Even wines with the same name, e.g. Chateauneuf-du-Pape, can taste very different, so do not be too quick to completely rule them all out.

Finally, I am sure Ian really knows that you do not normally get Frappato wines from the Etna region :) A lot more likely to be from SE Sicily. Maybe not so easy to find, but worth trying if you get a chance.

Chr!s G|@rn3r
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 266
Joined: November 25th, 2017, 1:29 pm
Location: Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Discovering my palate.....

#11 Post by Chr!s G|@rn3r » November 25th, 2017, 3:33 pm

Here is a functioning link to the torbwine.com page from the second post that no longer exists.
https://web.archive.org/web/20160809222 ... 0Sheet.pdf

User avatar
Ian Sutton
Posts: 5194
Joined: March 6th, 2014, 2:19 pm
Location: Norwich, UK

Discovering my palate.....

#12 Post by Ian Sutton » December 19th, 2017, 3:24 pm

Good on you Chris! It really is a great multi-choice way for people to get started writing tasting notes... and in time it's just a case of joining up the words to make sentences.
Normal for Norfolk

Post Reply

Return to “Wine 101: The Basics”