How did your palate develop?

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Billy Norris
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How did your palate develop?

#1 Post by Billy Norris » January 6th, 2018, 4:01 pm

I'm always curious as to what regions other oenophiles "learned" on. What were the first wines that garnered your interest, and how did you evolve from there? What did you do to teach yourself beyond just buying and trying?

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Yao C
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How did your palate develop?

#2 Post by Yao C » January 6th, 2018, 8:45 pm

We started with Sauternes, which we found very easy to drink, and as we encountered great experiences with other kinds of wine here and there, have gradually branched out. What's interesting is that there was no slow/steady progression in terms of cost - it all started with an encounter with 2006 Yquem, and ever since then it has all been about discovering new (& hopefully cheaper wines) that might replicate that original feeling. If I were to put it in sequence our journey thus far has consisted of: Sauternes -> Napa Cabs -> Bordeaux -> Champagne with a handful of detours here and there (e.g. Mosel Riesling) that never quite took

We also found that attending large tastings with many many different examples of a certain kind of wine (like 25+++) can be very helpful to build a baseline mental construct and grasp the subtle differences from producer to producer, year to year, cuvee to cuvee. We've tried to do 2-3 every year since the beginning. Certain reference books have been great - both Hugh Johnson + Jancis Robinson's World Atlas of Wine, as well as Peter Liem's book about Champagne. Finally I take obsessive notes, erring on the side of too verbose, in an enormous Google Spreadsheet & I also maintain an inventory in that same spreadsheet, which helps (Cellartracker is too heavyweight of a tool for my purposes)

ps. I try to avoid repeating wines where possible, except for my most favorite
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Michael Martin
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How did your palate develop?

#3 Post by Michael Martin » January 7th, 2018, 8:40 am

Early, early in the process, Chardonnay, cheap grocery store Zins and Spanish wines. Then came travels to Bordeaux, Chianti and California. Those trips were the game changers. We discovered so many good wines. Later trips to other parts of Italy, Portugal and smaller regions in CA like Santa Barbara County defined our tastes even more. Today we prefer Rhône varietals, but we really drink a wide spectrum of wines, mostly reds, but the occasional rose’ and white. Our latest fascination are Pinots and that field is wide and deep. Much to explore. Enjoy the journey.

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Billy Norris
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How did your palate develop?

#4 Post by Billy Norris » January 7th, 2018, 12:59 pm

My dad was a somm, and the bug bit me first with an '01 Pegau CDP, but he began introducing me to wines that were more accessible for a 21-year-old palate at the time. Lots of fruit-driven New World wines--Cali cab, Aussie Shiraz, Oaky Priorat, Buttery chard, etc. I began to tire of those profiles and worked backwards. I moved on to an interest in Rhone wines that has yet to cease, although recently wines from the Piedmont have captured my heart after a quick trip through the region for work last year. Still waiting to catch the Burgundy bug--I'm sure it will happen eventually, but for now I have plenty to keep me interested.

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Ian Sutton
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How did your palate develop?

#5 Post by Ian Sutton » January 13th, 2018, 8:40 am

Barring early experiences of the pretty awful 'table wines' that were available in mid 70s to mid 80s, a first taste of something more impressive was a 1976 German riesling (I suspect Auslese but such a term would have meant nothing to me as a schoolchild). Hooray for foreign exchange students.

The next wines to appeal were cheap but good Cahors, which seemed to have something about them I'd not really experienced in red wines before - perhaps the first time that reasonably ripe fruit, plus firm tannins created something that wasn't so simple. Then the awakening came via Oddbins, who were in their heyday then. A Macon (I think) chardonnay was a wow moment for the first experience of butteriness in wine (though I suspect it was more rounded / complex than a simple butterball chardonnay). £6 a bottle at the time (~1990) was a steo up in price from wines I'd bought before, but well worth it. Then came an Aussie tasting at Oddbins Preston Park, Brighton shop. I recall Penfolds Grange and Bin707 were there. The latter I thought interesting but not really for me - IIRC £15 a bottle, the former another wow moment for complexity/intensity. I walked away thinking £25 was a stupid amount for a mere bottle of wine, but for that wine, yes it was worth it. Working back, I suspect it was the 1986 vintage.

From there wine was an irregular interest. No cellar, so I'd maybe have 0-6 bottles around, but generally wines were bought on the day I intended to drink them. Mainly Aussies, though I do recall the odd amarone.

The interest really ignited around the millennium, with a combination of
1) Having decent wines whilst working away from home, including a special place, now demolished, that was a Cape Dutch styled restaurant, with a Savoy-trained chef who returned to Norwich because he disliked London, and a cellar of about 150 bins of South African wine, plus a Liebfraumilch and Piesporter "for those who don't like wine!". A week's stay there was draining but rewarding - a double education.

2) Moving out of an apartment into a house, giving much better conditions for laying down wine

3) Making friends that evolved into our tasting group, but who are now just good friends we drink wine and eat food with, but above all else, enjoy their company.

Tastes changed over that period, with Italy becoming a much greater focus allied to numerous holidays over there. Aussie wines became much less a focus, partly due to boredom with the SA wines hyped by the Aussie critics (not as jammy as Parker's favourites, but nonetheless often too one-dimensional). NZ was a secondary focus in the early days, but has since also slipped well down the pecking order. Both these countries suffered over here with significant exchange rate movement.

Spain, Germany, Loire remain minor but persistent interests, Cahors a little more so. The occasional Pomerol helps domestic relations, though the days of playing the auction scene for interesting and aged Bdx long gone now. US, South America very infrequent, the former typically price dictated, the latter too often not ploughing their own furrow, but rather focusing on cheaper copies. Burgundy interest got stopped in its tracks by price rises in excess of what I found to be value (plus premox - an absolute showstopper for me considering those price rises). Champagne not so popular in this house, though Krug always a joy, even if it's now just too stupidly expensive to justify - it never was 'cheap'.

Emerging interests are Portugal, especially the more northerly regions, plus a desire to sample a little more widely again - including quirky natural wines, Greece and some of the eastern European wines we see so little of here.
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Chris Blum
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How did your palate develop?

#6 Post by Chris Blum » January 13th, 2018, 8:55 am

For me it started with wines that were lush and smooth, with a lot of fruit. Then to bigger, lusher versions of those wines until I just got tired of them. I just started seeking out more crisp whites and red-fruited reds. That’s kinda where I am now. I tend to like wines that don’t overwhelm, but rather leave room during the night for “flavor discovery” for lack of a better phrase.

Last night’s Tercero Grenache Blanc was a good example. It offered a lot of surprises during the evening as it warmed and changed.
"Well, wine only turns into alcohol if you let it sit" -- Lucille Bluth
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How did your palate develop?

#7 Post by Mark Maddox » January 22nd, 2018, 10:47 am

Mine started with California Cabs, the chase for “bigger”; then I found Pinot; then Syrah, all still US. Food pairing came later and I realized I liked them all at different times. Then a trip to Tuscany, fell in love with Sangiovese; then a trip to France where I refined a lot and discovered whites were interesting too. Now I have some of everything...much to my wife’s chagrin and know that I have barely scratched the surface.

Steve Slatcher
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How did your palate develop?

#8 Post by Steve Slatcher » January 23rd, 2018, 2:54 am

Billy Norris wrote:What did you do to teach yourself beyond just buying and trying?
Buying and trying is still important for me. And if possible I get a taste before I buy.

Eventually you learn more what to expect from the region, producer, and the same wine in different vintages. Maybe you learn to trust particular critics, though I never reached that point, or friends who share your tastes. Most importantly, you learn more about your own taste, and what works in different situations. But I can't offer any particular advice about all that.

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How did your palate develop?

#9 Post by Joshua Kates » January 23rd, 2018, 1:21 pm

Started on the '82 Bordeaux, in the mid-eighties, with friends, when in grad school. We would all chip in around $5 or so and share a bottle between four of us. Love moved out west, so got more into Napa Cabs (loved the old $20 Caymus) and then Sta Maria and Sonoma Pinot, which led to a little Burgundy. After a hiatus, came back with a vengeance in 2005 in terms of collecting, mostly focused on Burg, Barolo, and Bordeaux, but lots of other good stuff (initially helped by what I read here and on other boards, though back in the day, certainly consulted the Monk of Monkton). Pretty much know what I like at this point and own more wine then I could ever drink, so...may have to find another passion, though I will continue to drink, of course, and read.

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