Have you ever wondered why you like certain wines, or why your friends don’t always seem to enjoy the wines you love? I’ve been reading up on palate diversity as it relates to wine, and here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Wine preference is obviously a matter of personal taste. However, I found that there are a surprising number of factors that influence what we like. Everything from where you lived and what beverages you drank as a child to your current culture and preferred cuisine play a part in how you taste things on a physiological level. Who knew? This is because, over the course of your lifetime, your palate has been developing likes and dislikes; these have informed your preferences in pretty much everything.
One of the first questions an expert will ask when determining which wines to recommend is “How do you take your coffee? Black or with cream and sugar?” Of course it made perfect sense to me as soon as I read it, but I’d never even thought about that relationship before! People who take their coffee black have a palate that tolerates strong, acidic flavors, while (in general) those who like cream and sugar in coffee seem to prefer smoother, less dry wines.
In the article “Taste Diversity: What influences the type of wine you like,” Melinda Yee explores the differences between Physical Taste Diversity and Associative Taste Diversity, which would seem to explain how “one person may detect a certain aroma in a wine that comes across as completely different, or lack of aroma to another person, because of their own life experiences.” So that favorite wine of yours that your best friend hates? That probably has more to do with their associative history than their sanity (or lack thereof)!
Physical taste diversity takes into account the physical features of your tongue: how many taste buds you have and how much saliva you produce as well as your physical health while tasting. It also includes your sensitivity to smells and aromas, and to hot & cold. Fun fact: people have varying numbers of taste buds – some have twice as many as the average person – they are considered “super-tasters.”
Associative taste diversity is much more complex. It has to do with sense memory as well as our culture and experience. You know that aroma that brings back a distinct memory from your childhood? It has a direct albeit unconscious effect on your palate. Associative taste diversity is also affected by your current circumstances, i.e. where you are and who you’re with. Fascinating!
I’ll explore topic this a bit more next week…until then, Cheers!