Saturday, August 05, 2006

Calibrating your own palate

I am always curious in finding out the general palate composition of Singapore wine drinkers. This is because the local food culture is dominated by hot and sweet sauces in their cooking. Most of us are so used to the delicious local food that authentic cooking styles from other countries will need to be fused with the local preferences in order to attract the dinning crowd. It is no wonder the new world wine is doing very well in Singapore, especially those from Australia or other warmer climate. Having grapes from the warmer climate and utilizing the modern techniques of winemaking, new world wine has a fruity and medium bodied palate. The riper grapes also have a higher residual sugar in the wine, causing it to be less tannic (in the case of Red) and less acidic.

I spent most of my evenings in the restaurant mingling with customers, helping them select the wine that is most agreeable with their palate and the food ordered. For a restaurant that serves fusion western style food where the chef uses quite an innovative array of oriental sauces, the pairing of wine and food serves as a good platform to explore the different wine style. As you may recall my earliest article about umami, the fifth sense of our taste buds which is induced by the presence of MSG. It is a description of deliciousness in our mouth. Having food prepared with oriental sauces, the umami stimuli are already present in the food (derived from soya sauce, mushroom, scallop or prawn paste...). Therefore, the choice of wine styles can now be extended beyond our comfort zone.

To calibrate one's palate, we can start by summarizing our food preference. If we are worshippers of Singapore’s local delights, the warmer climate wines are naturally more agreeable with our palate. However, this also means we can now utilize the umami stimuli in the food to satisfy our palate requirement and match it with the cooler climate wine whose higher tannins will blend with the food to enhance the overall sense of deliciousness.

Shiraz from France’s Northen Rhone and Australia’s Barossa Valley has a different palate composition. The best food to go with the Rhone could be a stewed meat dish that will benefit from the peppery nature of the wine. The Barossa’s shiraz tend to be more smooth and sweet, therefore a peppery meat dish will be a great choice.

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Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd



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