A fine palate

But how many of us might be tempted to end our lives just for a glimpse of the Cheval Blanc Shootout at the Comb-over Corral? :slight_smile:

I’m quite sure Greg is spot on - it is not about what you are able to taste or identify, as that is hypothetical and subjective - it’s purely about how much wine you can afford. Someone who pours ridiculously ‘rare’ (since fakes are not actually rare, but that’s another issue) wines and acts like he/she can recognize them, stating ‘this is a very fine example’ suddenly has a ‘fine palate’, i.e. they are convincing enough in their bullshit that envy kicks in and others feel compelled to say they have a fine palate.

The folks like that - such as an individual mentioned in my signature - with whom I have no interest in sharing wine, as the enjoyment to them is not about the wine, or the camaraderie, but about the false sense of smug righteousness.

Serious answer: same way we decide someone is a fine painter, a masterful chef, a tasteful dresser, an insightful critic…

Quite a lot of it is subjective; quite a lot is social. That doesn’t mean it’s completely arbitrary. People can legitimately disagree, yet there are often broad consensuses, whether universally or at least within a group (1). The opinions of “experts” count more. How much more, and who’s an expert? Hey, again, it’s fuzzy… this stuff is more analog than digital.

(1) Like individuals, different groups with different values will disagree. In the wine world, there will be groups who value the trophiest wines and groups who dig the offbeat, groups who rally around Parker and groups who praise Meadows, or Gilman, Schildknecht, or even Rimmerman.

To be earnest for a moment, although I stand by my initial claim, a fine palate would be one that offers me insight into what I am tasting. Offering flavor or aroma notes that I hadn’t come up with on my own, pointing out parts of the experience I either couldn’t elucidate or hadn’t noticed until the person with the fine palate ‘edumacated’ me.

Then…it becomes a moving target, as well. I might have a fine palate compared to a civilian, and someone else may have a fine palate compared to me…so there is a relative quality to this ‘fineness of palate.’

The dark side to how some determine who has a fine palate, as others have mentioned, is that too many people tend to assign palate related ‘finetude’ to those with the means to purchase and swill wines that the hoi polloi can’t access, exemplifying their superiority in matters of the palate. Nope. There are also those who think the Kardashians are examples of what America is all about, too. Double nope. We too often over-assign positive attributes based on fiscal factors, and that clouds many hobbies that have aspects of connoisseurship associated with the hobby. Access to finer products is not proof of discernment.

There… deadhorse

Excellent point. That is why I, for one, try to keep my false sense of smug righteousness in my posts on this board, where it belongs, and exercise my fine palate on a good bottle at the dinner table!

Whew, Rudy is a lot of things and a lot of them seemingly bad. However, having been in his presence exactly twice at large tastings (on successive days back in 2005), I can also say that he DID seem to have an excellent palate and was extremely insightful. Maybe he is just a great bullshitter, but I have been to a lot of tastings. Some people stand out from a crowd and make very insightful statements about a wine. And when you have the same wine in your glass at the same time, some statements resonate and some are a total disconnect. Rudy’s were the former.

I refer to these two events:


The sum total of bottles that Rudy was responsible for here was 1 (well 3 if you could the ones he bought off the restaurant list at the second dinner). None were blind. And yes it was excessive. Live and learn.

Very well said.

I would not discount price completely. More often than not it is an indicator of quality - from a vintage, terroir and domaine perspective. If so, someone with a fine palate should be be able to predict what wines are more expensive than others.

Wow, I can’t really agree with that, and I would challenge all ‘fine palates’ to drink blind more often, as there are some tremendous bargains at fractions of the prices of many of the most expensive wines, that would easily fool most.

I don’t think I’d want to taste blind. It would make me feel very foolish for having spent the sum that I have on the wines in my possession.

Todd, try tasting on the basis of what wine you think is the more expensive and then putting the name, in order of price, to the wine. It might improve your tasting scores :slight_smile:

I think there are multiple types of good palates, and those palates might disagree on which wines are better or worse; but that does not exclude the existence of bad palates, of which there are many. It’s like problem solving; there may be multiple valid solutions to a given problem, but that doesn’t mean some approaches just don’t work.

Guess we know what the next Domaine DC theme will be!

Not a bad idea at all. Can’t wait to not get a single wine correct.

Since I (initially) got no satisfaction here, I posted the same question on the French equivalent of WB.

It appears the concept of “great palate/grand palais” does not exist in French. The guys really didn’t fully understand what I was talking about but after some descriptions they seemed to feel this was a very snobby descriptor.

They seemed to want to replace “great palate” with “grand degustateur” and referred me to this link.


I have tasted with the guy in the second photo, Bernard Burtschy, and have found his level of ability and knowledge way above anything I’ve ever seen in America bur I would not however refer to him with the phrase “great palate” (don’t ask me why). While working in France many years ago in wine sensory neurophysiology, I worked with Emile Peynaud, considered the greatest Bordeaux expert of the 20th century. I would also not refer to him as “a great palate”

Although I liked on this BB the notion that “a great palate” will expand your perceptions and insights of the wine being tasted, I think with “a great palate” there is a level of pomposity and arrogance, and maybe some charisma. I would associate this phrase with British people such as Clive Coates. Clive spent a few days with me and Santa Ynez Valley many years ago, and this guy really is not from this planet. We went out and people would stare at us, thinking this must be one of those, hidden camera, you got punked, kind of TV shows

People who can determinate a double blind wine impresses me always very much, however sometimes …
the very same people do not recognize a slightly corked wine [scratch.gif]

This amazes me as well, but I’m highly sensitive to TCA, and many, many others are not. Should sensitivity to TCA be considered part and parcel of ‘a fine palate’?

Nonetheless, ‘a fine palate’ to me is, like the French stated via the other forum where this question was posed, snobby in nature. What is important is that one enjoys wine, pure and simple, no? One can enjoy very fine wine, one can enjoy QPR wine (hopefully). I don’t see it as a competition.

Sarcastic responses aside, the idea of a good palate as a technical matter makes perfect sense. There are compounds that exist in very small quantities measured in parts per million, below many people’s levels of perception - either defects like brett or VA or the various sensory items on the UC-Davis wheel. If someone can consistently detect them when other people can’t (and technical analysis confirms they’re actually there and not imagined!), give that guy a good-palate trophy. (Setting aside the question whether it’s the nose or the palate doing the work here.)

The problem arises when people confuse the technical ability to observe these things with the entirely separate skill of making aesthetic judgments.

No palate without nose i.m.h.o. [snort.gif]


Only 25% of taste comes from the five receptors in the tongue. The other 75% comes from a combination of receptors in the nose.