If you've ever participated in a wine tasting, you might have noticed that as you went on, it got harder to distinguish flavors. That's a common phenomenon called palate fatigue, but there's an easy solution - palate cleansing. If you're heading to a wine tasting where you'll have more than a few different glasses in front of you, you'll want to think about how to cleanse your palate in between wines to keep your taste buds alert and precise.
Palate Fatigue or Taste Bud Burn Out
When cycling through numerous glasses of wine and trying to differentiate between baked apple and quince, your palate can become fatigued. The constant slew of fruit, floral, spice, and herbaceous notes across your tongue overstimulates your taste buds and exhausts them from tuning into the flavors. All the components can start to blend together, with the acidic wines causing your mouth to go numb and the tannic bombs creating a Sahara desert effect on your tongue. Neither is pleasant.
What Is Cleansing Your Palate?
A palate cleanser is a small amount of specific food or drink taken in between wines to help you press the reset button. Cleansing your palate between wines saves your taste buds and helps you to be more precise in your assessment of the wine. Breaking up the tasting with something neutral helps your taste buds to reengage with the wine and tune into all of those delicate floral notes, kitchen garden herbs, brambly hedge fruits, and more.
Best Palate Cleansers for Wine Tasting
A palate cleanser should be neutral in flavor and leave a more-or-less blank slate for your next wine. You don't want anything with particularly bold, salty, sweet, or acidic flavors. Think bland. These three primary palate cleansers are easy to pack along to a wine fair or put out for your guests if you're hosting an intimate wine tasting at home.
This doesn't need to be your local bakery's sourdough rye. In fact, it shouldn't be. This is the one time you want bland white bread, like those soft baguette-esque loaves from the chain grocery store. Tear a little piece off and let it soak up any lingering flavors in your mouth. Then move on to the next wine.
Unflavored, bubbly water is a great palate cleanser. Bubbles of all kinds act as a natural cleanser across your tongue. So plain, bubbly water does a good job of wiping your palate clean and giving it a bit of a lift before that next sip of wine.
As with bread, you're looking for a bland carb that neutralizes that heady Barolo. So be sure to avoid any flavors or excessive salt on your crackers. Gluten free? No big deal. A GF option will work just as well here.
Cleanse Your Palate for a Fresh Start
While some swear by fresh pineapple and others dab their tongues with slices of roast beef, bland crackers and bread along with bubbly water - or even still water - will generally do the trick when it's time to cleanse your palate. Remember to take your time between wines and when you're completely through, nibble on that white bread before you start swirling that next sauvignon blanc.