to develop your wine palate:
Madeline Triffon, Wine Director, Unique Restaurant Corp.
single most important ability to develop when embarking on the adventure
of wine tasting is to teach yourself how to recognize quality. When
I was a very young sommelier, I had no mentor, no professional direction
other than my own common sense. I was thirsty for the counsel of anyone
with some depth of experience in wine. While working in a formal dining
room, I had the privilege one evening of serving André Gagey,
the director of the esteemed Burgundy house Louis Jadot. With enthusiasm
and innocence, I asked him "Mr.Gagey, could you please tell me
how you taste wine?" To my eternal gratitude, he gave the question
some thought and then answered: "When I first approach a wine,
I always ask myself Is this good wine? And then at the end,
again, Is this good wine? " I will always remember
his kindness in giving me the best advice Ive ever received on
how to taste wine.
"Is this good wine?" is, on the surface, a simple question.
But it presupposes that you have garnered experience in judging balance
and typicity, that you can assess a wine in its unyielding youth, and,
most importantly, can make a quality call independent of any critical
press. Make the opinion your own. Also, to all the enthusiastic blind
tasters out there: the ability to deduce what a wine is is impressive
but utterly unrelated to assessing quality, in my humble opinion.
Heres an easy checklist of subsequent questions to ask yourself
as you taste to purchase, whether for yourself or for a hotel/restaurant
property: "Is this wine a good example of type, or is it a new
example of type? Can I sell this to my guests? Is there a market for
this wine, or can I create one? Is it delicious, will it deliver pleasure
at the table? Is there a good price/value relationship, what will I
have to sell it for? And, finally, once again, is this good wine?"
This simple methodology, practiced faithfully, will become second nature
and will keep your palate honest.
Adapted with permission from Exploring
Wine: The Culinary Institute of America's Complete Guide to Wines
of the World, by Kolpan, Smith, and Weiss, 2nd edition
(John Wiley and Sons, forthcoming)