Palate Fatigue


The other day, after yet another tasting, my friend P.J. and I started discussing the pitfalls of the wine trade. I mean it’s not all wine and roses. Well, maybe it is but there is such as thing as too much of a good thing. Just as professional chocolate tasters must get tired of yet another exotic chocolate or chocolate combination – we wine professionals need the occasional break, too.

Palate fatigue. We’ve all heard of it but what is it exactly? I mean, how does your palate get tired? It’s not like it’s doing a 26 mile marathon or anything like that. Or is it? After about the 26th wine it starts to get tiring for me (time for a snack) and if I’ve been tasting all day, by the time I get to the last wine, it’s hard to make distinctions. There are only so many variations of raspberries, cherries, vanilla, oak, pineapple, green apple, butter or hay (to name a few) that you can detect in one day, not to mention all the delicate nuances and underlying notes and tones of a wine.

Can you hack it is the question. Even if tastings can seem like marathons, they are in no way near as painful as actually having to run one. As a matter of fact, despite my whining about palate fatigue I woudn’t give them up for anything. Some people swear by the water crackers that are de riguer at tastings, others rinse with water occasionally, and some people I know have a beer with lunch before tackling the next round. Right now I’d say I’m a middle distance runner. I stick to crackers mostly. Still in training but one of these days I’ll be a marathoner!

And what do I drink when I’m not imbibing wine? A perfect Maker’s Mark Manhattan on the rocks goes great with steak.

I’ve also heard of this stuff called “water” with dinner….

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