How differently does each palate perceive wine?
Our taste buds are as unique as our fingerprints: No two sets of taste buds are alike. Their arrangement and composition are a result of our DNA, but our tastes and dislikes are also shaped by environmental factors and personal experiences. Genetics is also largely responsible for taste sensitivity: Some people are simply more sensitive tasters than others, meaning that something slightly sweet to an average person may be extremely sweet to someone more sensitive to sweetness. The same goes for acidity. Some people have a very low “threshold” in acidity and are very sensitive to it and other people who, on the contrary, have a high “threshold” and consider even a Sauvignon Blanc, not so acidic.
The so-called “supertasters” literally have more taste buds than the rest (taste buds are the tiny mushroom-shaped papillae on our tongues that house our taste receptors). Supertasters are usually quite picky, due to their heightened sensitivity—coffee and vegetables can taste very bitter, and spicy foods can taste painfully hot. Gourmets can also find wine off-putting, especially wines high in tannins and/or alcohol.
Conversely, there are also “non-tasters,” or people who have less-than-average taste buds. They tend to find many foods and drinks bland and may like to season their food with lots of salt or hot sauce.
If you’re on the sensitive side and aren’t a professional taster, it doesn’t mean you have to completely delete wine from your eating habits. Consider avoiding red wines, which have more tannins and may taste bitter to sensitive tasters. Choose light, delicate wines with lower alcohol percentages. Barrel-aged wines may not be for you. And keeping wines chilled will help keep them from appearing too “warm” on your palate.
If you want to know more about your level of taste sensitivity, consider seeing an otolaryngologist.