The Four Types of Wine Palates

By Donniella Winchell
Executive Director, Ohio Wine Producers Association

GENEVA – Tasting rooms in Ohio wineries are filled with people looking to enjoy a glass of wine that suits their taste buds.  The wonderful thing about our wineries is that each has its own personality and offers wines for nearly every palate. 

And given the myriad of choices, it is interesting to understand why some in each group of tasters might prefer a range of wine styles. The reasons are many and can range from physiology, life experiences, to the situation at the moment. There is no wrong or right. 

Tim Hanni, researcher and Master of Wine, has written a great book called “Why You Like the Wines You Like,” which explains a lot. 

For sweet wine lovers, which he calls Hypersensitive Vinotypes, Hanni explains that some folks are physiologically geared to sweet wines and because of their genetic makeup, and likely spend their entire life enjoying sweets. Hypersensitive Vinotypes have many taste buds and like light, fragrant wines that are low in alcohol with a hint of sweetness. Bold reds are often just too much for them.

 Over the years, some of these folks will gravitate to other styles, but in many cases, they will enjoy sweet wines forever. They probably also have to cut the tags out of their shirts because their skin surfaces also have more nerve endings than most people. 

The second group, Sensitive Vinotypes, make up the bulk of the wine consuming public and enjoy the widest range of styles, from quite dry to sweet including both reds and whites. This explains why visitors to the Ice Wine Festival in the Grand River Valley every March go home with bottles of both the super sweet ice wines and dry reds like Cabernet Franc.  Each has a place on their dining room table, depending on the entrée or dessert being served with their meals.

Tolerant Vinotypes have the fewest taste buds, resulting simply from genetics or from years of enjoying spicy foods and smoking cigarettes or cigars. This means that their palates look for intense stimuli. They tend to like big, high alcohol wines, often reds with lots of tannin. They typically use lots of pepper flakes on their spaghetti, eat Doritos Blaze Tortilla Chips and claim the hot peppers from their partner’s salad. 

Then there are the Conflicted Vinotypes.  Often, they started out as a Sensitive or Hypersensitive Vinotype but because of life experiences, have learned to not only tolerate, but enjoy nearly every wine style.  They may belong to a gourmet cooking club that explores international cuisine, or have visited dozens of wineries where the tasting room staff has helped them understand the many nuances of each wine style. These are the folks that swirl, sniff and slosh before they sip. It is not pretention on their part, but a way to help them anticipate what is about to happen before the wine hits their mouth.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.