How to truly develop your wine palate

How to truly develop your wine palate

‘Remember your first, your first love, your first heartbreak. Chaste was our first, our first wine so full of memories’        

Chaste, Shiraz, Téssera Wines

By Jen Venardos, Founder and Wholesale Manager

We at Téssera Wines, made our first wine in 2015. A Shiraz that we named ‘Chaste’ after our first vintage. I absolutely love a good red and we were blown away and excited. We chose Shiraz out of the four grape varieties in the vineyard at the time because it was our favourite to drink personally. I don’t think I have drunk as much Shiraz in my life - one of the perks of producing.  As time went by, I realised the importance of developing my palate, especially with the introduction of Riesling and Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills winery. I really wanted to learn more about each wine and our white winemaker Pete Leske suggested taking time out each week to try something new.  If you are stuck in a rut and finding that you only are drawn to one or two varietals, check out our tips below for developing your palate in fun and interesting ways!

If you have ever watched any of the ‘Somm’ episodes you will probably agree that Master Sommeliers make wine tasting look like some kind of magic trick. To be able to guess a wines variety, region and gasp, the year is just beyond anything we mere quaffing mortals can comprehend.  However, a Master Sommelier has to start somewhere with development of their palate. Wine tasting is an acquired skill with a developed palate procured over time. You may not get to their kind of level, but I can assure you that trying is definitely part of the fun.

Here’s some quick tips that will take you from blankly staring at your wine glass to deciphering a Riesling from a Chardonnay in no time.

Take Your Time To Savour
Slowly savour your wine.
Take a sip and let it sit and evolve inside your mouth. Closing your eyes and letting your senses take over is how you can improve your wine tasting skills. The brain achieves a higher level of analytical thinking when we just slow down and take our time to really savour.

Look, Smell. Wait. Taste.
Pour the wine. Take the time. Look at the wine in the glass and the colour. Remember that colour wheel at Art Class? What does the colour remind you of? Swirl it around in the glass (no tasting yet!).  What about the smell? Nothing is off limits. I recall saying to our red winemaker that his Shiraz smelt like crushed ants only to then be told that indeed it would as formic acid is produced by ants but also is a by product of the fermentation process. Perhaps you can smell Eucalypt in your Cabernet? Some smell mushrooms or earth. Take notes. Taste with a friend and compare your experience.

On that first smell and taste, what is your first feeling? Usually, it is right. Trust that first identification and then delve further. A Cabernet for example can be quite easy to identify but then try to identify what is behind that? You can be hit with an initial Mulberry on the nose but move past that.  Is there anything else that you can identify?  Look at you, now you are getting quite clever.

Variety is the Spice of Life
It goes without saying that to truly develop your palate for wines and tastings you need to push aside your favourites from time to time. Next time you are looking through a wine list, perhaps choose something you would not normally try. Ask the waiter for suggestions. Choose by region.  I love a good McLaren Vale red, but see Coonawarra is trailblazing. Get out of your comfort zone. I tried a Piquepoul variety recently and enjoyed learning more about a wine I had never heard of before.

Head to the Markets and Expand your Senses Outside of Wine
Sounds strange, but heading to the fresh food markets is a fabulous way to train your brain towards all the different smells. This is a sure fire way to develop your wine vocabulary as well. Smell the fresh berries, stone fruits and herbs.

Smell everything, consciously. Be aware of the smells in your environment. Have you ever picked up a wet stone and smelt it, well you should! 

Cooking from scratch, focus on ingredients and how they smell. What do the aromas remind you of?

Next time you are going for a walk, really smell the air and the trees. Smell the roses!

Visit Wineries and Regions
A trip to a winery can be the best classroom lesson ever. Most cellar door wine tasting experiences will have multiple wines for you to sample. Ask questions! Where are the grapes grown? What was the vintage year like? How was this wine made? Ask the attendant what their favourite is and why.  No question is silly, this is what us in the wine industry live for, educating others! Purchase your favourites and cellar accordingly. Get to know the regions and what makes them special.  For example, McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley are renowned for their earthy reds, Clare Valley for Riesling and Southern Tasmania for Pinot Noir. Cellar door wine tastings can be one of the best ways to not only develop your palate but increase your wine knowledge at the same time.

Most importantly, try something different! Get out of your comfort zone and get your hands on as many new varietals as you can. Make lots of notes. And tasting is always so much better with a buddy.

I wish you well on your wine journey.  We all have to start somewhere, and you will find us wine industry folk very open to chatting about all things wine.  Looking forward to seeing you soon.



Jen Venardos
Founder of Téssera Wines

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