Pursue your Palate – Top Tips for Tasting


In the run up to Christmas, our cellars beneath our No. 3 St James’s Street shop are always buzzing with tutored tastings, fine wine dinners and wine schools. What I love about teaching at Berrys is that our customers are always so keen to learn, and I suppose it’s easy to be enthusiastic when you’re learning about wine!

No matter how much theory you read about a certain wine region or grape variety, the best way to learn about wine is to taste it. This might seem like an obvious thing to say, but knowing that Chablis lies on Kimmeridgian clay won’t necessarily help you choose a wine to accompany your grilled salmon, whereas remembering the crisp minerality on the last Chablis you tasted will.

Here are my two top tips for getting the most out of tasting and comparing wines at home…

1) Compare and contrast. This is a great way to learn as it allows you to benchmark one style against another and help your palate ‘remember’. If you’re new to the game, start with wines that are quite different in style; the more you practise, the better you will get at picking out subtle nuances and can then progress to comparing wines from the same region (e.g. different villages from Burgundy or Bordeaux). I would suggest that you start by comparing an oaked Chardonnay with an unoaked one, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a French one like a Sancerre, or a Californian Pinot Noir with a Pinot from Burgundy.

2) Remember that climate is key to wine style. The cooler the climate, the higher the acidity (the component in wine which gives it a refreshing, mouthwatering effect). The warmer the climate, the riper the flavours in the wine. Comparing wines from different climates (e.g. a warm climate like California versus a cooler climate like Burgundy) will allow you to get better at recognising the different styles and where they are found.

The above tips are a great way to start as they will help you with the most important aspect of wine tasting – finding out what you personally like to drink. Our palates are all different and each one of you will have unique impressions of every wine that you taste.

Wine tasting is a hobby that not only will teach you an enormous amount about the fascinatingly diverse regions of the world where wine is made, but will also give you immense pleasure! So if you’ve resolved that 2012 will be a year to learn new skills, why not make wine tasting one of them?

For more information about our tutored tastings and wine school events please visit our website.