How do you avoid "palate fatigue" from tasting too many wines?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What are your tips to avoid "palate fatigue" when tasting so many wines in a session?

—Jan F., Birmingham, Ala.

Dear Jan,

The best way to avoid palate fatigue? Don't taste too many. Everyone has a different capacity when it comes to tasting wine. Some people can taste dozens and maintain their concentration and judgment, just like some people can run marathons. Other people are Sunday joggers who are winded after three miles. Similarly, some tasters should limit their evaluations to just a few wines.

As with running, the more you practice tasting wine, the better you'll be at it. If you only taste a few times a year, you're not going to be as sharp as if you do it regularly. While tasting, it's important to hydrate and eat something (preferably something neutral, like bread, that won't interfere with your palate).

Learn to trust your nose more, and practice appreciating that first sip, so you have to go back less often. I think the mental part of tasting is just as taxing as the physical—it takes concentration, which is difficult at public tastings—so do your best to block out distractions. And don't forget to spit!

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

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