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Saturday, January 04, 2003
Some more about wine tasting pitfalls

A few days ago, I warned of the perils of having a corrupted palate, especially by something sweet, before starting to taste. A year ago, fortuitously, I found myself in a Melbourne bookshop just before a wine tasting event was due to start. The joint authors of a book on best value wines were selling their book and offering samples of wines of which they approved. Since the book looked interesting, was reasonably priced and covered the cheaper end of the price spectrum (you will, by now, be aware of my parsimony), I decided to buy a copy and join in.

Having had my book signed, I went to taste the first wine: a slightly sparkling Muscatel, sweet and light. I have to agree that it was a pleasant enough wine but all the subsequent wines tasted peculiar. Weren't they idiots to start people off in that fashion? As a result, I have tended to regard many of their written pronouncements critically.

Whenever I go slurping, I omit sweet wines altogether unless virtually all wines in the area (e.g. Rutherglen, Victoria) are sweet. The only other time I will taste them is in my last winery of the day - the perils are all too obvious.

In exchanging stories of this sort with vignerons, I became aware of a common problem with storing the glasses for domestic wine consumption. Having got the glasses scrupulously clean, it is tempting to store them inverted to keep the dust out. If you do this, it is critical to keep them on a glass surface or on something that will not contaminate them. Wooden shelves are the worst offenders: somehow, the taste of the wood (e.g. teak) will coat the glass and, dramatically for the worst, affect the flavour of any wine put in them.

Personally, I am now so alert to this problem that I keep my glasses upright –the effect of any dust is trivial compared to the nastier effects of wood contamination.

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