What does it mean when a tasting note refers to the “midpalate”? How do you experience it?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What does it mean when a tasting note refers to the “midpalate”? How do you experience it?

—Terry, Monterey, Calif.

Dear Terry,

The term “midpalate” isn’t exactly outdated, but it’s one of those wine-tasting terms that I don’t hear used that often anymore. It can be useful both for referencing a sequence in the physical act of tasting as well as for describing the location of taste sensation.

In the first scenario I mentioned, the act of tasting is broken down into three “acts”: the first impression is called the “attack”; second comes the “midpalate,” when the wine registers in your mouth, fully coating your palate; the concluding act is the “finish,” or “aftertaste,” which is the sensation that lingers after the wine has been swallowed or spit out. In the second scenario I mentioned, the “midpalate” refers literally to the center of your mouth, and how the wine tastes and feels on your tongue.

For most wines, the midpalate is where all the excitement happens, and it’s what most people are talking about when they describe wine. But if you think of wine’s taste as having a beginning, a middle and an end, “midpalate” is one of the terms that help tell that story in more detail.

If you hear a wine described as being “hollow,” or having a hole in the midpalate, that is a negative term, as you might imagine.

—Dr. Vinny

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