So, we are going on a wine tasting journey. Seems simple, but taste is actually one of our more complex senses.
We may be sophisticated in our tastes today, but we still taste with the same tools as we did when we were hunter-gatherers 150,000 years ago. Back then, humans lived or died from what they put into their mouths.
Taste something sweet and you know you’ve hit nourishment. Taste something salty and it sharpens your flavours. Of course, taste something bitter and you may end up lying on the ground if you don’t spit it out.
We all start with the same tools. Taste buds sit in our mouths and oesophagues. Different buds in different locations there are specialists, seeking out sweet or sour or bitter or other flavours. But there is more to taste than just flavour. Viscosity ( mouth feel ) is measured by your lips, tongue, and inner lining of your mouth. Colour and clarity are measured by your eyes. Aroma is measured by your nose. And if you don’t think aroma matters, why do you salivate when smelling fresh baked apple pie.
When you taste honey, for example, you are not just remembering the sweetness. You are also remembering it’s viscosity, it’s colour and it’s structure in the comb.
We start our own personal tasting palate as soon as we start eating or drinking. Our tasting memory files away each taste and gives it a category; good, bad, indifferent, dangerous, etc. As we grow older, we can put names to most of these tastes; orange, banana, peach, etc, and of course, chocolate. Over time, we find out what we like, and what we don’t.
When we taste something new to us, our tasting memory scans its files to help classify it. That has a pineapply taste, or it tastes like cherries, etc. This tastes sharp, like a lemon. We label it citrus-like.
Thus, every person develops their own tasting palate. Even siblings will have similar tasting palates, but not identical.
Folks brought up in Mumbai, for example, will have been exposed to different flavours than someone raised in Mexico, or Rome or New York. They will have a different starting point to evaluate taste.
So, what does this have to do with wine tasting?
Everything! When you taste a sip of wine for this first time, you are using a lifetime of your tasting experience and your tasting palate. You will like it or not depending on your personal taste.
When an “Expert” tastes any wine, he is using his tasting tools and his tasting memory files to evaluate the wine. His description of the wine may lead you to what to look for in your own experience, or maybe not. For example, a good Reisling wine can be described as having a lychee nut-like finish, but if you have never tasted a lychee nut, it’s of no help.
Bottom line, when it comes to tasting or drinking wine, you are the one doing the drinking, with your tasting tools, so you are your own expert.
To learn more about the art of tasting, come join my tour.