Vol. 1, No. 17, May 10, 1999
© Copyright 1999 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
"Cleansing" the palate
My advice, akin to that recommended for the father of the bride, is "bring bread." Good white bread -- typically Italian or French -- is the standard palate-cleanser at tastings because it's neutral in flavor. If you watch professional wine buyers doing their work, they'll take a piece of bread and a drink of water between wines in order to judge each one from a standing start.
At social wine tastings, you'll often see cheese or even more substantial snacks like shrimp, roast beef, meatballs or bacon-wrapped chicken livers served, but this is not such a good idea when you're evaluating wines for purchase because appropriate food makes the wine taste better. You'll sometimes see apples and other fruit served with wine, but this doesn't work for me, as I find fruit seems to make the wine taste a little sour.
For this reader's purposes, though, an old saying in the wine trade surely applies: "Buy wine on bread; sell wine on cheese."
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However, wine makers in Australia, South Africa and the U.S. have borrowed the name to use on similar-only-different wines, warm and strong and sweet. Our Australian cousins in particular are said to be wild about these wines, which they typically made in the oak-aged "tawny" style, not red but brown and so extremely sweet that they earn the nickname "stickies."
This one's an unusually impressive example, remarkable in its complexity, at a price that's more than fair in the luxury realm of dessert wines.
Hardys non-vintage Whiskers Blake Tawny Port ($14.99)
FOOD MATCH: Served by itself for after-dinner enjoyment as a dessert in its own right.
Quady's Batch 88 "Starboard" California Dessert Wine ($16.99)
FOOD MATCH: Again, served alone for evening sipping.
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