Wine Tasting Part I: Skewing The Palate


You may be experience frame error.Do you enjoy an occasional glass of wine?  One of the interesting aspects of drinking wine occurs when a person only drinks a particular type of wine—for example, only chardonnay. 


According to Karen MacNeil, author of “The Wine Bible”:


Drinking wines within a narrow range of preference…skews your palate. If all the red wine you drink is muscular, tannic California cabernet sauvignon, over time you begin to think that good red wine is supposed to taste muscular and tannic.  Then when someone hands you a glass of pinot noir from Germany (of which the Germans are justifiably proud), you’ll find it thin meek and watery.


Ms. MacNeil goes on to explain scientists have a name for this phenomenon—they call it frame error.  To better understand how frame error occurs, imagine you always wear dark green-tinted sunglasses.  If you were to suddenly take them off, or if you switched them out for a pair with a gray or brown tint, the world might seem too bright to you, or colors might feel as if they were the wrong hue.  In reality, the world is no different, but your perception of it is skewed by your expectation of how things should appear.


When it comes to tasting wine, the goal isn’t to compare every wine to your stock favorite.  Instead, you want to allow a wine’s characteristics to shine through any preconceived notions or filters you might have in place and let it stand or fall on its own.  This means wine drinking and tasting is best done by challenging your taste buds—in other words, by drinking a wide variety of wines and seeing how each pares best with particular foods.  As is often the case with the things we consume, it turns out variety truly is the spice of life.


In part II, we’ll discuss the five qualities a wine taster should assess that make up a great wine.


For more on the world of wine, check out “The Wine Bible” by clicking here.


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