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Educating your palate is not just useful for professional wine tasters, people in the industry or connoisseurs. As wine consumers, we are all training our palate on a daily basis by experiencing and tasting different flavours in foods, and remembering and recognising these flavours and sensations means we can make more educated decisions.
While you don’t need to study wine to be able enjoy it, if you pay attention to different flavours, you'll find that you’ll be better able to identify what you like or don't like in a wine variety. In addition, you will be more likely to notice when a wine is faulty and avoid drinking unsatisfactory wines, and be able to better match a wine to a food which can avoid enhancing unattractive characters in the wine such as high alcohol or acid.
In wine, there are three basic tastes: bitter, sweet and sour. These are derived directly from the compounds within the wines, originating from the grapes. The three basic tastes are:
- Tannins (bitterness)
- Sweet (residual sugars – unfermented sugars from the grapes)
- Sour (acidity)
Different wines can enhance the flavours in foods, similar to how herbs and spices add to the flavour of food. For example, the tannins in red wine enhance the taste of red meats by cutting through the fat and reacting with the proteins to release the flavours within.
The carbon dioxide in sparkling wines, and the natural acidity and sweetness of white wines helps to cut through the creaminess of cheeses and dishes with rich sauces.
While wine can be used to enhance flavours within food, it can also be used to tame and balance a dish. For example pairing a sweet white with a hot, spicy dish can help to cut the down the heat and cleanse your palate.
Worth a look:
- McGuigan Reserve Shiraz Cabernet – the perfect partner for meat dishes.
- Nepenthe Tryst Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir – great for taming spicy dishes.
Last week: What wine should I drink this weekend?
Alex Trescowthick has been winemaker at Nepenthe in South Australia since 2011. Alex is passionate about wine-making and relishes the opportunity that each new vintage brings to produce even better wines.