Ignore the Snobs : Use Your Palate as Guide

THROUGHOUT THE centuries, the whole reason for making wine has been the pleasure it brings to those who enjoy it. And that's why, when it comes to taste preferences, you can ignore the wine snobs. As Maynard Amerine wrote in his "Wine, an Introduction for Americans," published in 1965: "If one educates and trusts his own palate rather than the pronouncements of wine snobs, one can drink better wine at lower prices."

The fun of the wine game is in finding marvelous bargains and taste experiences. Blue Nun is a fine example. Though not as complex as a Rauenthaler Baiken nor as gentle as a Wehlener Sonnenuhr from J. J. Prum, it never disappoints.

Amerine also reminds beginners that "in the appreciation of any aesthetic creation, a learning curve is involved." Start with what is easily recognized and understood--be it wine, food, art or music. With time and the experience of tasting various varietals, the taste curve moves on to drier, more flowery and more distinctive wines of more exalted pedigree. From whites, move on to the much more complex reds, especially older red wines, evaluation of which challenges the most experienced palate.

But even these palates are not infallible. Recently a friend brought two foil- wrapped bottles of high-shouldered Bordeaux wine to a pre-class supper. Four well-seasoned palates, including that of a famous wine maker, tasted the first bottle and pronounced it a good California Cabernet, no excessive tannin, probably a '78 or '79. Napa? Sonoma? It was a Jordan '78.

The second bottle, we agreed, had a more intense bouquet with violet-spice perfume. It also was tannin-free, with a tongue-caressing body. "Almost like two wines from the same winery," the wine maker suggested. At that, we took off the foil wrap. Much to our amazement, the second bottle also was a Jordan '78. We had tasted two bottles of the same wine but, incredibly, they tasted different.

That brought to mind Baron Philippe de Rothschild, who said in 1972 that "each of 12 bottles in a case of wine will mature differently, just as children in a family will grow up with different personalities."

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