refreshing a tired palate

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I rarely take part in large wine judgings, although I am often asked to participate. On the surface, such events seem like good opportunities to explore a variety of wines, meet and work with a range of wine business professionals, and expand my own palate.

But in reality, they are – to be blunt – marathon grinds. Yes, there are people who can do it; who can taste through 100 or 150 wines in a day. I can do it, if I must. But at what price? Let’s say I’m doing 10 flights of 12 wines each, a not uncommon average at a wine judging. I am going to sip each wine at least twice – so that’s 240 sips minimum. Yes, you spit religiously, but believe me, you get buzzed.

You can eat a truckload of crackers, or celery sticks, or whatever else is around, but your tongue gets clobbered. It might be clobbered by acids, or clobbered by tannins, or clobbered by sugar, but it gets clobbered. Your teeth don’t fare so well either.

So OK, let’s tally it up. Tongue – destroyed. Head – fuzzy. Teeth – aching. And what do people desperately want to drink after a day of such tasting? BEER!

I taste wine almost daily, and I limit myself to a dozen or so wines on most occasions, but rarely more than two dozen. It takes time to really dig into a wine, to give it a fair shake, to let it breathe, to consider its nuances, and to find the right words to describe it. Then there is the scoring, which is a responsibility I do not take lightly. A lot rides on these scores, like them or not, and I am one of a handful of people in the country who has the opportunity to give the scores to some of the most important wines and wineries in the world. You can’t do that in a fly-by judging.

I don’t have any magic palate restoratives. If you do, please send them along. But once in awhile, it’s good to take a break from all the tasting, which is what I’m going to do for the next couple of weeks. I’ll keep blogging, and there are notes to compile and post, and other work to be done. But I won’t be reviewing for a little while, and hopefully the old tongue will be refreshed as a result.


Peter Rosback said...


Believe it or not, carrot juice is a good restorative. It is very basic (as in base instead of acid), so helps neutralize wine's acidity. Somehow, despite having a good measure of sweetness itself, carrot juice sets one up to enjoy the next taste of wine be it white or red, sweet or dry.

Mind you, I've only done this with freshly made, organic carrot juice. YMMV.

Peter Rosback Sineann

xyz said...
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Anonymous said...

Two words:
Guinness Stout.
Just a pint and all tongue fatigue is gone. Two pints and you're almost ready for wine again....but you'll probably opt for a third pint

Chris Wallace said...

Cucumbers, believe it or not, work wonders. They freshen the mouth without leaving behind a taste of their own. But i don't know what to say about the aching teeth...

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