Holy Crap! My Palate Is Changing! How's Yours Doing?


On the recent thread about food and wine pairing being overrated, there were a few posts that struck me, mostly the ones pointing out that our North American food is overall too sweet as a cuisine. More importantly to me, however, was the one about the Alsace wine producers who were dismayed at the younger 16-20 year olds looking just to guzzle their rare VTs and SGNs due to the high sugar content and showing absolutely no appreciation for the delicate texture and superb aromas and flavors of the finest white wines in the world bar none.

I’ve been finding my palate has been changing particularly over the last six months where I’m actually preferring less(GASP!) sweetness in my sweet wines than usual for precisely that very reason – I’m finding the sugar masking and sometimes even overwhelming the very flavors and aromatics when I believe they should be more complimentary.

I actually am drinking a beautiful Jean Geiler 2007 VT Gewurztraminer with amazing aromatics and flavors and lovely honey flavor sweetness – and am surprised to find myself wishing it were a tad less sweet. Now before you all faint and think I am abandoning sweet wines and going dry like the rest of you, you should this baby is 88 g/L RS and I find myself wishing it were more like anywhere from 50-68. Just a tad less to bring out more of the other good stuff.

That’s not the only surprising way I’ve found my palate has changed since becoming a Berserker. The other changes I’ve noticed over the few short years in my palate are:

  • Taking a real liking to rich and complex sparkling wine that is well-made like quality French Champagne that has both yeasty and fruity flavors in good balance.

  • Preferring there was more alcohol in some of my lighter ABV wines so that they have a better body and smoother mouthfeel. I have particularly noticed myself wishing for this in my beloved German Riesling Spatleses and Ausleses which rare make it to let alone cross over the 10% ABV mark. This has actually made me start to come around to homegrown Ontario Rieslings for this very reason.

  • Developing a healthy respect if not outright love for well-made examples of wines produced from varietals I normally absolutely detest, particularly Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc.

  • Noticing and loving the silky texture of a well-aged Port and red wine – again, even in varietals I don’t like or wouldn’t normally drink – in which the tannins have receded giving way to a lush smooth mouthfeel.

  • Developing a liking for Pinot Noir from regions all over the world as I have come to appreciate its incredible delicacy and distinct flavors from other reds. I’ve become good with everything from bombastic cherry cola Cali Pinots all the way to delicate pristine Burgundies.

  • Truly enjoying Amarone even though it technically doesn’t have the sweetness levels of Recioto. If I had to drink a red wine, Amarone is the red wine I would reach for every single time right now.

  • Enjoying the super concentrated flavors of spirits and liking them that way, to the point where I absolutely hate diluting them in any way, shape or form (though I have to make an exception for the George T. Stagg because I don’t want to die from drinking it raw [wow.gif] ).

  • Preferring the complexity of aged Tawny Ports and Vintage Ports over the straightforward fruitiness of Ruby Ports. It was completely the other way around when I first started getting into wine.

  • Starting to find Moscato D’Asti and Brachetto D’Acqui a bit too simplistic. While I still enjoy them, they are not the must-buys they once were to me. I’m now preferring a richer and fizzier body and more complexity. I actually find even Clairette de Die from France, a far less sweet but far more bubbly version of Moscato D’Asti, far more enjoyable.

The interesting thing is how all these changes in my preferences happened in such a short period of time – I’ve only been a Berserker for 3 years and was only drinking for a year before that. Wow.

So have you all found your palates changing over the years?

Mine really went off the rails about 4 years ago and I changed gears in seeking leaner and higher acid like wines that go IMO real well with food. As to your many asteriks, Tran, this one sat well with me, too:

  • Developing a healthy respect if not outright love for well-made examples of wines produced from varietals I normally absolutely detest, particularly Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc.

I have begun to buy a good amount of CA chard again (in the palate style I enjoy) and also Cab Franc from Loire. I find that red reeling me in, it makes me remember it.

I have found myself quite fond of Austrian rieslings lately and “discovered” trocken German rieslings - quite a revelation. Delving a bit into Gruners from Austria too.

Still like pinot noir very much but am willing, like you have described, to try them from different regions around the world. Tried German spatburgunders and would like to try Alsatian, Australian, and Austrian efforts.


Hi Tran,
Very interesting post - it’s valuable to reflect on how our palate and attitude to wine’s relationship with food have evolved. But I’m puzzled by your making critical comments on sugar levels (in both food and wine), and then saying:
“Truly enjoying Amarone even though it technically doesn’t have the sweetness levels of Recioto. If I had to drink a red wine, Amarone is the red wine I would reach for every single time right now”.
If Amarone is the first red wine you reach for “every single time”, perhaps your palate is still not getting the message from your experiences and changing philosophy? pileon

Are you happy with your cellar? - WINE TALK - WineBerserkers champagne.gif

I’m still pretty eclectic. I started buying and drinking CA Cabs, Chards and PNs in 2000. Through 2004 I was moving slowly and then sped up rapidly to old school European wines from '05 on. Today Burgundy is 41% of my cellar. But, I like variety so I have plenty of Rhones north & south along with decent holdings of Piedmont and Tuscany. Currently only 7% of my cellar is from CA. I still own zero desert wines and probably never will. I’m usually the only guy at the table to pass on glass of Yquem. Wines styled like; Mugnier, Rousseau, D Angerville, Chevillon, Thivin, Giacosa, Vajra, Monprivato, Montevertine, Cerbaiona, Rostaing, Beaucastel, VT, Tempier, Billaud Simon, Martray and Mount Eden Vineyard are what I’m in the hunt for.

I have already purchased, and drank two Red Burgs in 2014.

Dildine wept.

I’m loading up on PN right now because it’s always what I want to open these days. I moved away from PN about 3 years ago, right after I got into wine and loved it, and my palate flipped back about a year ago. I’m looking forward to the BD V PN offers.

I can barely bring myself to open a Syrah these days unless it’s a cool climate one made by a Pinot maker. Restrained Rhones are doing well, but BDX are getting the silent treatment now. Barbaresco is hitting it off well.

and now you’re posting about drc!? welcome to teh dark side

I’m actually finding that I can handle to drink really ripe wines again.
I went through a phase when they were just to big, they wore me out, not that I was against them for any philosophical reason, but they just were too big and heady for me.

I’ve begun to find that I am ok with bigger, modern-style CA cabs (Myriad to name one) than I had been in the past. Also, I am really starting to get excited about nebbiolo from Piedmonte. On the other hand, I’m getting bored with Oregon pinot and beaujolais lately. Must be cyclical.

I have now gone full circle. I am craving overoaked California Chardonnay…

And I’m serious…

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate (Dante)

This post is interesting as many peope (myself included) change palate preferences over the years, especially in the first decade of getting into wine. Makes it interesting when collecting and building a cellar, as you never quite know if you will end up having way too much of a certain type of wine. All part of the fun i guess. My palate is very broad already and constantly crave different things. I like ripe fruitdriven wines that are well made, to sip during an evening where the food is not much in focus. Other nights i want high acid chianti classico’s for a good red sauce pasta dish. I appreciate both the brunello’s of Poggio di Sotto and the Supertuscans from Antinori and Tenuta San Guido. I try to build a broad cellar and focus on taking advantage of good vintages in regions i care about, while buying off-vintage from producers i know are stable. I already like so many different types of wine, i dont think my palate has really settled yet, it is still exploring.

I’m finding Burgundy (red & white and CA pinot noir) are kinda boring and don’t really go with the foods I eat. Good wines, but limiting.

Was on a solid old-world streak for a while, and really enjoying the wines of Piedmont, Northern Rhone, and Germany. Now full circle back to new-world and loving California wines again. It seems to be totally cyclical for me - another couple years I’m sure I’ll swing right back again.

Ironically, I’ve moved these last 7-8 years closer to where I was when I first started developing a deep affinity for wine: traditional, old world reds. In the '90s I drank a lot of Bordeaux from the '80s, loving the rustic stuff like Talbot and Montrose, Loire reds like Raffault and Joguet, and Northern Rhones like Clape. I took a wine hiatus from the '99 to around '03 vintages, life taking over (family, business venture, triathlon), and when I came back, it seemed like the bombs from Spain, Australia and Cali were all the rage. I started back drinking and buying many of these highly-praised wines and eventually, most notably with the '07 CDP vintage, they caused the elastic to snap. I can barely tolerate any of those wines now. Back to drinking traditional wines, preferably with a little stink on them.

If I could I would sell every bottle of CA wine and turn it in to Burgundy, Barolo and maybe a little BDX.

Unfortunately there is not a big market for Charles Shaw. [snort.gif]


Tran - I think what’s happening is that you are learning about wine. People lock themselves into one thing or another because they find something they like and often find something they dislike, but in both cases, those two things may not be the whole story.

So in the distinction between “new” and “old” world, people decide they like one or the other, as if every single wine produced in a hemisphere falls into a particular category. In the same way, people decide that a particular grape is somehow “better” for whatever reason and they latch onto that.

All that’s OK, but quite limiting IMO. Some folks like their own cuisine and don’t want to stray too far from it. I think that’s actually fairly common and it’s not a bad thing - it probably came from some positive evolutionary development that was actually quite helpful in the history of humanity. Therefore I can kind of understand that approach to wine.

But if you’re curious, and you seem to be, eventually you want to explore a little more and you find virtues in wines you may not have liked in the past.

For example, for about fifteen years I didn’t drink any Chardonnay and then one day I tried one and thought it wasn’t so bad. So exploring those over the years has been kind of interesting. I grew up with slightly sweet Riesling as a child and still love it and don’t think I’ll ever “outgrow” it.

Every wine I liked years ago I still like. Last night we popped a 1995 Zin that I bought on release and I liked it just as much as I liked it on release. It’s just that over the years, you find more wines to love and you start to understand why some wines are done the way they are and in that way you find many new friends to love without ever having to abandon your earlier loves.

“North American” food covers a LOT of ground, from sweet baked beans and sweet cornbread with honey to steamed clams and poached salmon and grilled steak. I’m not sure that it’s all so sweet.

It is true however, that the average American values sugar over subtlety. I learned that when I owned a pastry shop and it’s exactly why the food companies hire food scientists to tweak their products. The people at Yoplait took what some people considered a “health” food and increased the sugar until today it has more sugar than an equal serving of ice cream. French fries are dunked in sugar water before freezing, condiments and breads are loaded with corn syrup, and pretty much all processed and fast food is sweetened. But is that really a cuisine? Besides, who drinks wine with any of that stuff?

Cheers and keep tasting!