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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Developing a House Palate

A house palate means you've developed a taste for, and prefer, whatever wines you are exposed to.

This could be something as simple as you only like oaky Chardonnays, or maybe only French Burgundies, or only fruity New World red wines.   At its worse I suppose, it's a winemaker developing a taste for only what he/she makes.

Maybe you prefer under ten dollar wines--lucky you! Of course, that could be like thinking Hershey's is perfectly good chocolate...and then you have some Guittard or Lake Champlain chocolate.

I've seen it from working in wineries.   After a short time you really begin to like (or is it understand?) the wines from your employer as you get more exposed to them.   Most tasting room employees do not like aged wines--even something four or five years old.   They are used to drinking the current releases only and expect those flavors.

It's not just forcing yourself to try other wines by picking up a bottle of Italian Sangiovese, French Chablis, or Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel.    That's because it'll be different and you may very well not like the new aromas and flavors the first time.   It may take awhile for the wine to become clear to you and your taste buds.

Recently in a wine forum the European winos argured that Brettanomyces adds complexity to a wine.  Brett gives a funky, barnyard, horsey smell.   To me, someone used to New World wine, it's always a fault, not an enhancer.    It depends on what you're used to.

I had worked in one Sonoma Valley winery part-time over many years.   I actually started there in the first place because I really enjoyed their wines.   I've been away for several years and when I occasionally go back to taste I'm underwhelmed by most of their products.   I keep wondering if their winemaking style has changed (it hasn't) or my tastes have changed (maybe).    If I was still working there would I still love the wines?

I have a house palate in that I'm stuck on California wines mostly.   I'm OK with that as there is so much to explore in northern and central California and I have barely scratched the surface.   Am I missing anything by not being a French Burgundy fan?  Sure.   And just think what those Burgundy fans are missing by not exploring Alexander Valley Cabernets or Dry Creek Zinfandels or Russian River Syrahs.

The best way to avoid a house palate?   Try everything!  And with an open mind--that's the hard part.  One suggestion:  As we move into warmer weather it's a good time to give rosés a try.  They aren't all sweet, "girly" wines any more.