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Feb 24, 2008 04:42 PM

How do you expand your palate?

I am fairly young (23) and I really enjoy drinking wine; however, I have a hard time associating what I taste and smell with the description of the wine. I was wondering if anyone has any advice on how I can expand my palate and sense of smell. As of now, I try drink a wide variety of wine and read as much information as I can get. Any advice is greatly appreciated.


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  1. Taste. And taste more. And taste even more.

    Where do you live, San Francisco or San Diego? In both cities, you'll find wine classes through UC Extension and through other choices, such as wine shops and community colleges.

    Take notes. It doesn't matter what words you lose, as you will be the only one reading the notes, but try to be as specific as possible. Remember that's it's impossible to describe a taste or a flavor, but you can ALWAYS say that "x" is like ________, or that it reminds you of __________, or that it suggests ____________. That's EXACTLY what you're trying to do in your notes.

    Go to wine bars. Ask if they'll pour tastes (or half a regular portion) instead of a full glass. That way you can taste twice as much. Bring in a notebook, sit at the bar (or a table) and scribble notes!

    There are many, MANY more things you can do, but you need to give me an idea of what kind of wine(s) you like.


    4 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Thanks for the advice. Taking notes is an excellent idea.

      I have been going to wine tastings at a near by wine shop, but I will check the local colleges for classes.

      The two types of wines I am into right now are Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, a lot depends on the meal I am eating. This Valentines I had the best wine I have had in a long time (2005 Earl Domaine Castagnier Gevrey-Chambertin).

      Again I would like to thank you for your help.

      1. re: JonDough

        >>> 2005 Earl Domaine Castagnier Gevrey-Chambertin <<<

        Two quick comments. First, it's not "Earl," it's "E.A.R.L." - that and S.A.R.L. are two types of French corporations. The wine is more properly called 2005 Domaine Castagnier Gevrey-Chambertin. Secondly, just double-checking: you know this is a Pinot Noir, right?



        1. re: zin1953

          haha I guess you can tell how green I am. Thank you for clearing that up.

          I did realize it was a Pinot Noir. I brought it up to prove the point that I will drink different wines depending on the meal.

          Once again, thank you for all your help.

        2. re: JonDough

          "However, a lot depends on the meal I am eating. " This will always be the case. IMO, this is where a lot of wine tasting misses the mark since you are tasting wines without the benefit of accompanying food.

          read up on the wines that you like, both specifically and varietally.

          if you like your wine shop and are starting to get to know the sales staff, let them know what you have liked (and not liked); they should be able to help guide you as well.

      2. Easy...

        DON"T start with the wine... start with the FOOD. Pick a few predictable cuisines:

        Spicy Asian
        Creamy pasta
        Grilled fish...

        Then just get some friends over and 5 or 6 different wines and start trying each wine with each food.... Ask for some advice at first, but trial and error isn't a bad way either.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chicago Mike

          I agree with Chicago, but also taste random things like rocks, raw veggies, brusselsprouts, chives, and it is a must to know the difference between all the berries under the sun so grab some of those. Just keep tasting stuff.

        2. Yep, tasting as much as you can and keeping notes are the best ways to start.

          When you come across something unfamiliar, such as most of the Old World, European wines that are labeled by the place of origin, rather than the grape, it's a good idea to look it up on (gasp!) wikipedia, or another source. I drink a lot of French wines, and this site has been very helpful:

          If you come across something you like, look them up online too for more info. Most of the wineries in the US have information on their site. For international ones, a lot of the good importers will have info or newsletters on their portfolio.

          Aside from that, keep drinking!

          1. To start, read a lot, taste a lot and talk a lot to other people who have an interest in wine. I can tell you from my experience that talking to people, and reading wine reviews and books on wine in general can guide you in on the more broad attributes of certain wines. From there I'd taste and attempt to recognize what I read and what others have suggested in the wine (which may not always be easy).

            1 Reply
            1. I just want to thank everyone for their advice and guidance, I am sure it will help me grow as a wine drinker. Thanks again and cheers!

              1 Reply
              1. re: JonDough

                I was given a 'wine aroma kit' for Christmas this year. It is interesting (the nose was always my worst 'event' in wine tasting), it consists of small viles of common scents in wines such as leather, peaches, black cherries etc. The idea is to memorize the smells through practice and repetition (blindfolded smelling/guessing) so that when a wine comes your way you will recognize these common elements, it also explains what wines they are usually found in. I found as a beginner, I could not name what I was smelling so I would not even hazard a guess, unless it was really obvious, like barnyard. Now that my smell memory is improving, I can pick up more notes on the nose. Next step will be the tasting wheel!