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5 Palate Exercises to Impress Hosts with Your Sense of Taste

What could be more appealing than training yourself to be a better wine connoisseur? Not only will you deepen your enjoyment of wine, but you’ll impress hosts, friends, family, and even sommeliers with your refined palate. You’ll get a better idea of what you like—and what you don’t—to make the most out of every wine-drinking experience.

Anyone Can Improve Their Palate

Every person has a unique ability to experience the aromas and flavors wine has to offer. Some are more sensitive, while others find it difficult to discern flavor profiles, but everyone is capable of sharpening their sense of taste and smell. Whether you consider yourself an accomplished amateur wine connoisseur or have just discovered wine as your drink of choice, you can improve your palate—and have fun doing it!

Exercise 1: Swirl & Sniff

The first step is to pour a small amount of wine into a glass. Hold the stem between your thumb, pointer, and middle finger, and swirl it in a circle. This introduces oxygen into the wine and releases its aromas. After the swirl, hold your wine close to your nose and, with your nose inside the glass, close your eyes and inhale.

Experience the aromas. Reflect on what you smell. Your first instincts are often correct. Do you smell fruity or savory notes? Cherry? Pepper? Tobacco? There are so many smells to experience in various types of wine.

Don’t be afraid to share what you smell and see how others feel.

Exercise 2: Aspiration

After you’ve smelled your wine, now it’s time to practice aspiration. You’ll roll a sip of wine over your tongue and suck air into it. It may look and sound strange, akin to slurping soup, but this is your opportunity to allow oxygen to release more of the wine’s flavors. Aspiration helps you taste more of the wine’s unique flavors. Take your time. Leave the wine in your mouth for a while, and think about what you taste.

Exercise 3: Identify What You Smell & Taste

There’s no wrong way to describe a wine, and everyone may experience the same wine in a slightly different way. You can better communicate what you smell and taste by expanding and refining your wine vocabulary.

You can also train your palate to discern body, acidity, tannins, and alcohol level. Sipping lemon juice can help you experience acidity. An over-steeped cup of black tea displays tannins. You can better understand “body” by comparing the texture of heavy cream, milk, and low-fat milk.

After tasting for acidity, tannins, or body in food or drinks, try tasting two different wines and see if you can identify differences.

Exercise 4: Compare

When you’ve mastered the art of the swirl and aspiration, and taken some time to experience acidity, body, and tannins in various foods and drinks, try setting up some wine tastings on your own or in a low-pressure setting with friends and family. Get different types of wines and sample them side by side, noting the aromas and flavors. Think about the slight differences you notice, and talk to your companions about these.

Some people like to keep a notebook of wines, including the year, vintage, and region in their tasting notes. This not only makes a record of what certain regions or years have to offer, but it also creates a record of your wine journey.

However you do your tastings, have fun with it!

Exercise 5: Try & Try Again

Now comes the best part of training your palate: implementing what you’ve learned by drinking wine. Try different wines wherever you go. When you go to a restaurant, spark up a conversation with the sommelier, and get expert guidance on a selection for your meal. If possible, visit wineries and take part in tastings.

Broaden your horizons and enjoy how diverse wine can be!

Over time, you may be surprised to find how differently you perceive wine as you train your palate. You’ll detect aromas and flavors that you never noticed before, and you’ll notice nuances that bring so much more enjoyment to wine tasting or sharing a bottle with friends. The next time you bring a bottle of wine for your host or hostess, they’ll be impressed with your sense of taste.

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