A few weeks ago we received an email from a woman looking to take advantage of our ‘Off the Vine’ service in order to expand her wine horizons. She wrote sharing some of the wines she currently enjoys, but said she’s frustrated because she can’t tell me why she likes them – “I just do.” No doubt being able to identify what you like about a given wine helps you continue to explore beyond your usual repertoire; but most people have difficulty describing why they like something. Rest assured - you’re not alone!
So what do you do?
It’s easy! Just flip things on their head. Tap into ‘The Yuck Factor’.
Here’s a timely analogy: If you were to ask me, a Boston resident, last summer what I liked about winters here I would have said I actually enjoy getting out to shovel, seeing my neighbors and the camaraderie that crops up annually. Sounds great, right? Now with so many days – weeks – spent cooped up and shoveling it’s hard to remember how awesome the first snow was; jolly thoughts of skiing and sledding, creating snowmen and snow angles are long past. I ache from the heavy lifting and am over the snow days. I’m grumpy and contemplating a move west.
Certainly when you are coming at something from the negative side first, the feelings imparted are so much more intense they are even more memorable, i.e. loathing (icy sidewalks, bitter cold and not being able to get around easily) makes it easier to identify what you love (long, sun-filled, warm days).
The same is true when it comes to tastes, right? It is so much easier to identify and remember something you hate than put your finger on why it is you love something – you just do!
We operate the same way when it comes to wine. If you are neutral or positive about what’s in your glass you are less likely to stop and think too much about it. But if you have a negative reaction you pull away immediately, recoiling at The Yuck Factor. Indeed, the Yuck Factor offers a critical key to discovery. What you hate helps informs what you (will) love.
No doubt there are numerous nuances in a given wine. Where it comes from on the map, the grape type(s) it is made from, and how the winemaker made the wine are just the starting points. But what our own palate (our 5 tastes) tells us offers key data points. You can then take these to a Pro for help navigating the vinous world – and find new wines that further excite your palate!
Here’s a quick guide to help you tune in to your tastes:
SWEET. Here’s a tricky category, as (truly!) most wines are vinified dry. Our perception of sweetness comes from how much fruit we find in the wine – fruitiness as opposed to actual residual sugar. A ripe peach is way juicier than a hard one, but they both offer sweetness, right? Just different levels. If a wine with loads of fruit flavors, sometimes ‘teeth-sinkingly’ so, or even jammy in nature floats your boat, run with it! There are a lot of fruit-forward wines in the market, so ask for some recommendations accordingly. If not, seek out wines with modest fruit and/or an extra dose of drying tannin.
SALTY. Wines don’t tend to be salty per se, it’s true. But there can be some saline, tongue-drying minerality elements that can turn you off in (more typically) white wines. Is that you?
BITTER. Does a wine with a lot of tannin (that tongue-drying, slightly astringent/bitter quality) offend? Even though many, many wines are vinified dry, there are levels of dryness; on the extreme side, bitterness results. Do you hate when a finish is so long and dry you are left with a bad taste in your mouth (pun intended)?
SOUR. High acid wines are certainly a category unto themselves. Do you shy away from a particularly long, mouthwatering or puckering experience?
SAVORY/UMAMI. How about wines that are a bit more rustic, or offer earthier, gamey nuances? If these wines offend, stick to wines from the New World (aka not Europe).
Whatever your dis/likes, don’t be ashamed of this information – embrace it! Tapping into The Yuck Factor helps you to identify components of a wine’s character, which will help you follow more dotted lines to wine experiences you will heart.
Everyone’s palate is their own, and there is a whole lot of wine out there ready to be loved. Just be sure to chart your course, so you have these data points at the ready and can work with a Pro to help you avoid what isn’t in your wheelhouse – and instead discover what is!