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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Wine Wisdom: Removing the mystery, intimidation of choices

  • Two of my goals for this column are to remove the mystery and eliminate the intimidation factors that wine drinkers sometimes face. Let me elaborate on why folks sometimes perceive a particular wine so differently.

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  • Two people sip a well-made wine. One loves it for its dryness, the other hates it. If it is a quality wine, how can that be?
    Two of my goals for this column are to remove the mystery and eliminate the intimidation factors that wine drinkers sometimes face. Let me elaborate on why folks sometimes perceive a particular wine so differently.
    The main reason is because each of us is unique. One of our most distinct elements is our palate; the volume of taste buds vary from person to person. You love steak; I love lobster. Someone else likes both equally. It’s the same with wine. If you are a wine drinker, no one has your exact palate, so you may experience wines differently than many other folks.
    Now, thanks to our expanding understanding of the human tasting experience, writer George Taber provides an explanation in his book, “A Toast to Bargain Wines.” According to Taber, Tim Hanni, one of the first Americans to be recognized as a “master of wine,” and Virginia Utermohlen researched the topic and identified four phenotypes, or categories, wine drinkers fall into based on their taste preferences.
    The four phenotypes are:
    Sweet: People with the most taste buds often demonstrate a preference for sweet things, wine being no exception. This explains folks who love white zinfandel. Typically, 30 percent of wine consumers fall into this class.
    Other desirable wines for these folks are Riesling, moscato, chenin blanc from the Loire Valley or South Africa, fruit wines and sangria.
    Hypersensitive (Delicate): Folks in this category are very sensitive to bitterness and prefer elegance and finesse in a wine. If they drink chardonnay, they prefer one that has not been aged in oak. They also like lower alcohol levels. Some 25 percent of wine lovers fall into this category.
    The wines preferred by these folks are usually pinot grigio, merlot, Viognier and pinot noir. Sparkling wines are also a favorite of these consumers, along with Italian reds, such as Chianti, Barbera and Dolcetto, as well as Spanish Riojas.
    Sensitive (Smooth). Another 25 percemt of wine drinkers tend to be more adventurous and enjoy variety, depending on the time of day and their mood. They like both cabernets and chardonnays as long as they are not too rich or overly intense.
    Other favorites include syrah, red zinfandel and red blends from around the world. Whites that might appeal to this group include sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, pinot blanc and viognier.
    Tolerant (Intense). Roughly 20 percent of wine lovers favor big, powerful wines with strong tannins and intense flavors. They savor rich, oaky, high-alcohol wines and might enjoy recommendations from wine writer Robert Parker.
    Folks in this class like chards or cabs with big, bold intensity, as well as Super Tuscans, Barolo and Brunello. Petite sirah and Rhone Valley reds also fit the bill nicely.
    Page 2 of 2 - Like me, you may see yourself in several of these categories. Yet, I favor delicate wines more than others usually. Most wine professionals tend to fall into one of the latter two classes, resulting in a bias toward dry wines and intense wines by the folks most likely to make suggestions to you: wine writers and retail staff.
    That is another reason I’ve always recommended calibrating your tastes with those of the people you accept wine recommendations from. However, always remember the most important rule is this: when it comes to wine, let your palate be the most important judge. Drink what you like, regardless of what anyone else says.
    To learn more about the above wine phenotypes and to assess your own wine style, visit www.yumyuk.com or check out timhanni.com on the web.
    Another key factor relative to tasting wines is the texture or feel of the wine in the mouth of the taster. John Giguiere, owner of California’s Crew Wine Company, recently told me over dinner that, from his perspective, “experiencing a wine is all about mouthfeel.”
    Sampling his Matchbook wines, including the Chardonnay ($15), Tempranillo ($15), Tinto Rey blend ($17) and syrah, which all worked well with food, I immediately got his point. I savored the Matchbook Syrah ($16) immensely and highly recommend it.
    Enjoy.
    Mark P. Vincent has a passion for wine. Contact him at winewisdom@yahoo.com.
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