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Reconfiguring Your Tasting Palate


Annette Parillo — Bellingham, Washington asks,

I’ve been what you might call a “wine consumer” for many years. My husband and I like to go to wine tastings, we usually order wine when we go out to eat, and we have a pretty nice collection at home. What we have never ventured into is the world of making our own. My friends (who are trying to get me into the hobby) tell me that tasting new and young wines is very, very different than the wine-enjoying experience I’m used to as a seasoned “consumer”. I’m worried I won’t know what to look for as the wine is fermenting, going through malolactic fermentation as well as during aging in the barrel. Can you give me advice on how to taste new and young, unfinished wines with an eye to what it will eventually become — what should I focus on? Fruit, structure, tannins, acid?


I apologize in advance for the lengthy response but this is a fantastic question and I really wanted to flesh out my answer for you and readers that are following along. You are absolutely right to realize that tasting new and developing wines is vastly different than tasting bottled wines. Especially, as wines gain bottle age, they change even further, developing secondary and tertiary “bottle bouquet” aromas. Before bottling is a whole different world. In general, over time, new wines, both red and white, increase in clarity as sediment falls out and decrease in acidity. Harshness also decreases as malolactic fermentation (MLF) occurs and dissolved carbon dioxide evolves out of the wine. Wines become rounder and more “together” in the mouth as tannins condense and fall to the bottom of the aging vessel. Aromas develop from very primary fruity and funky during fermentation to more mature and seamless aromas one associates with finished, bottled wine. The finish of a new wine tends to be shorter and the finish will lengthen as the wine ages. Unfortunately, the only way to be
Response by Alison Crowe.