ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I attended an excellent wine tasting—they offered a tasting of around 40 wines from 10 different winemakers. By the time I arrived at the fifth winemaker, everything was starting to taste the same. Any advice on how to keep my palate alive during a wine tasting? I tried eating crackers and drinking lots of water, but that only seemed to help a little.

—David, Minneapolis

Dear David,

Tasting wine is a skill, and like most skills, the more you practice, the better you'll be. The best tasters I know are ones who routinely—nearly daily—taste through a flight or two of wine.

When you're tasting, continue what you're already doing: hydrate with lots of water, nibble on crackers or bread or something neutral for your palate. Take breaks. Tasting is a mental exercise as much as a physical one. Be sure to spit; letting the alcohol enter your bloodstream will not help keep you sharp. Sometimes I'll take a huge whiff of water to clear my sense of smell, which is a large part of how things taste. Even so, there are times when my palate gets fatigued, and all I can taste is acid or alcohol. Then it's time to go home.

—Dr. Vinny


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