We all have our own taste preferences so you have to be careful in saying that one wine is ‘good’ and another ‘bad’. You can say why you like it or why you don’t; you can say that some wines have had more care lavished on their production than others; you can say that wines made by the same winemaker in different years taste different and why. All that is helpful in understanding and training your palate, but it won’t overcome your basic preferences.
It will be clear from reading this blog that I have distinct preferences, some of which don’t correspond with D’s, and some of which I am unable to indulge very often given the meals we eat. But I believe that if you have a predilection for a particular wine and think it goes with a particular sort of food, we will probably agree about the aptness of the match even if we have different preferences for that combination.
Some general guidelines are emerging from recent research which should help interpret my preferences to yours. Briefly, you can divide people’s taste in wine into four groupings. The two most extreme groups are:
Sweet: Very sensitive to other tastes and need sweetness to offset them. You will know you like sweeter wines and respond to descriptions like ‘sweet’, ‘smooth’ and ‘fruity’. You will tend to like Riesling, White Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Sangria and fruit juices. You will be less bothered than others about food matching,
Tolerant: not a great label, but it means that you can tolerate, indeed enjoy, strong and assertive tastes. You will prefer red wines, big ones, and respond positively to descriptions like ‘complex’, ‘bold’, ‘intense’. You will tend to like New World Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The less extreme groups are:
Delicate or Hyper-Sensitive: Very sensitive to taste in general, you prefer dry and slightly off-dry wines. You will respond to descriptions like ‘dry’, ‘light’, ‘fruity’. You will tend to like Pinot Grigio, dry Riesling and light reds.
Smooth or Sensitive: Moderately sensitive to taste in general you are happy with a very wide range of tastes. You will respond to descriptions like ‘dry’, ‘balanced’, ‘fruity’.
There is an on-line test at www.bibendum.co.uk (look for the Wine Preference Survey) that will tell you roughly where you are.
It seems to put me in the right group – Smooth/Sensitive, also D – in Delicate/Hyper-sensitive. You need to make allowance for this when you read this blog.
But don’t expect an absolutely complete and perfect and portrait of your tastes; it is bound to simplify and that’s no bad thing. For example it says that I should respond to descriptions like ‘rich’, ‘smooth’, ‘balanced’ when actually I only respond to the last. ‘Smooth’ tends to mean too soft and not sufficiently food-friendly to me; ‘rich’ conjures up big fat Chardonnays, Merlots and Syrahs from the Southern hemisphere, most of which taste too sweet to me. This probably means I am on the Delicate/Hyper-sensitive side of Smooth/Sensitive. It doesn’t mean that it’s a pointless exercise. It accurately points out that neither D nor I will like strongly oaked wines or those whose tannins are assertive or un-integrated – that’s why ‘balanced’ is such an important descriptor for me and why you will often find me using words like ‘structured’ and ‘integrated’ approvingly.