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Is achieving a trained palate all you think it will be, or will it leave you cursed?

Should we admire and aspire towards cultivating a polished palate, or is it easier and more enjoyable to view wine from a simpler perspective; does it taste good or not?

Palates, like natural wines, are fickle things- no two are identical. With repetition and talent, you can train yourself to identify specific characteristics in wine that allow you to make a very quick and educated decision on a wine's quality. After time you can pinpoint specific aroma compounds from a sniff, distinguish structure and complexity from a sip and create philosophical harmony with food before taking a bite. A savvy skill that's uniquely impressive, a necessity to a successful career in the wine industry and an extremely misunderstood trait by non-wine-folk. Once you've learned the knowhows- a cork is pulled, a paradigm shift occours, and there's no return. Wine will never be the same. Trained to find faults, master the 4 human senses, and systematically dissect every wine before enjoying- it begs the question; Should we admire and aspire towards cultivating a polished palate, or is it easier and more enjoyable to view wine from a simpler perspective; does it taste good or bad?

From human genetics, sensitivity levels and environmental factors, we develop personal preferences towards specific flavours, intensities, and textures. For most wine-people, that’s a positive, and once you figure out what tickles your vino fancy, you can seek out wines that fit that bill. This way- the beauty is left in the eye of the person holding the bottle.

On the other foot, embedded into the psyche of a Wine Professional are excessive calculations of acid, tannin, oak, fruit weight and body. Alongside this, they also scan the front, centre and back of the palate to see how the wine sits and tannin grips. They watch for the length of the finish and scan all the flavours to distinguish those that are key to keeping the purity of the grape's environment. It is not until this mathematical process in complete that they will make an educated decision about the wine’s quality.

Long before our first sip of wine, we are taught that our tongue is responsible for the 5 basic tastes: Sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. Flavours, on the other hand, are created through sensory experiences. Like a memory bank, we store mental snapshots of things we smell, taste, and see for our brain to use as future reference. But how does Shiraz taste like pepper and Sauvignon Blanc smell like grass? When neither pepper nor grass was harmed in the winemaking process? and is it really benefiting the average wine-lover to know? Debatable- sometimes the less you know the better.

Both Winemakers and Sommeliers are meticulous fault finders- they have to be.... especially when approaching cellaring-style wines, checking the consistency of barrels in a winery or creating a cellar list. To fill these rolls, you must be critical, educated, and confident to identify creepy crawly's that are hiding in the wine- ready to emerge and ruin someone's evening. Faults have no place in ultra-premium vino. Here, a professionally trained palate is integral to the continuation of attempted perfectionism, the creation of wine lists and identifying true signs of complexity, quality, and longevity.

A fault is defined as an unpleasant character of a wine. From reductive aromas (not enough oxygen during fermentation), poor fruit quality and structural imbalances, alongside the classics- volatile acidity and brett (spoilage yeast), faults can come in many forms. In small amounts, these traits are hidden from the untrained eye. Are certain characters still ‘faults’ if they are balanced in the wine and don't have a negative flavour to the consumer? Or is a wine with a fault simply a faulty wine? Sommeliers tend to allow some element of 'faults' if they enhance the wine overall. Winemakers tend to be less forgiving.

When systematically judging a wine, it is normal to start by looking for what’s wrong and working back from your findings, leading you to the overall assessment. This process works for high-end wines. It is also a recipe to stop enjoying a large bracket of other wines.

with the 'natural wine' era upon us, faulty wines are everywhere. but where is the line for what's 'faulty' when some characters enhance the wine to the general consumer? classical wine training, though progressing, does not help when approaching a broad range of wines. Is it easier to simply look at the wine for its drinkability and... if it tastes good or not.

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