I say: most definitely yes. Just like we avoid certain foods when we are little, and then grow to love them, attraction to certain wine styles and taste profiles works the same. I don’t believe our taste for wine changes as rapidly as our mood or cravings – one day for ice cream, next day for a pickle (unless you’re pregnant and love them combined).
I remember (just like probably most of us) starting my own wine journey with some uncomplicated, sweeter wines, without really paying any attention to it. I believe we all had our share of Almaden, spritzers and similar “treats” before we realized that there is more to it than just alcohol fix and hangover. Oh, yeah – definitely hangovers, and a painful ones!
I remember my AHA moment when somebody poured me a glass of dry Grűner Veltliner – and I suddenly realized that although it was much drier than I was used to, I loved it. I remember feeling that this was probably how the wine supposed to taste. It caught my attention.
I explored more during the following years spent in our friend’s family wine cellars, tasting several different varieties that grew in my country: from Chardonnay, Tramin, Riesling, Muscat, Grűner Veltliner, to some reds like Blue Portugal (also called Blauer Portugieser, Hungarian Oportó, in the Balkans Kraljevina, in France Portugais Bleu), Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. At that time, I cared mostly for whites.
Years later, starting in wine business professionally, I remember my favorites of 1st power tastings: definitely huge Cabernets, Zinfandels, Brunellos, Amarones, Californian high ends… the bigger, the better. I remember an indulgent smile on my colleague’s face (someone, whose opinion I respected very much): “You really like these, huh?” His eyes were also saying – that’s OK, you will get over it!
It took me a few months or maybe a year before I came back to appreciate whites – that I completely dismissed in the previous period. “Whites are too boring,” I thought then, in the light of all those impressive reds. But it didn’t take me long and I got over it, just like my friend predicted.
Being exposed to so many great wines, my palate slowly grew to appreciate the finesse in the wine, not necessarily the body and impressive tannins anymore. Actually, I got little tired of those wines – since you can’t really pair them with any food (except steak, and who can eat that every day!?). That doesn’t mean that I don’t like these wines – they have their time and place, and are important parts of valuable collections in people’s cellars.
My European upbringing must have kicked in as well as I started to re-discover a large scale of Italian, Spanish, French, German and Austrian fine wines. They were much more impressive at this point of my journey, than when I was comparing them to a huge style reds.
I learn to love Burgundy, red and white, Pinot Noir or Pinot Gris from Oregon. Most of them were far more acidic than my husband could tolerate. His taste for wine was somewhere around Martini & Rossi Asti Spumanti (aka candy sweet).
When we met, he didn’t touch wine. “Too sour” he kept saying. He was having a problem with heartburn, when he drank wine. That’s why he stopped. I asked him what kind of wines he used to drink, and when he told me, I thought: no wonder you had a heartburn! Imagine, I was exploring all these excellent wines and he wouldn’t share it with me!
My husband had a sweet tooth. Loved Coke, sweet coffee with a pastry or candy bar with it.I was just the opposite. Never touched sweet lemonades, a little bit of bitter dark chocolate maybe, with unsweetened coffee to break the sweet taste for me. So we started a little experiment. Every day, we will have a glass of quality wine with a dinner. Whatever was appropriate for the meal, what I truly believed would pair well with our dish.
There were wines that he liked better than others, and some that he couldn’t drink at all. Never again he complained about the heartburn, though. Slowly I noticed that my husband would enjoy a glass of highly acidic Bordeaux, without complaining, or even super dry white with the seafood dish. He suddenly liked Sauvignon Blancs! His palate completely adjusted. At the same time he stopped using sugar in his coffee, cut down his sweet treats (not because of me, but the blood sugar test results).
Today he can’t imagine going back to his favorite Asti Spumanti. I also came back to outstanding quality German Rieslings we had in portfolio. Few years back, they were just too sweet for me. I know, the recipe for a good marriage is the compromise and meeting in the middle. Well, it wasn’t such a sacrifice for me. The quality Rieslings we sometimes drink are perfectly balanced with acidity – which makes them irresistible. Not to mention dry Rieslings, that many of our friends never knew existed.
As I write this, I realized my best friend is coming to visit me from Europe. She spent years in France, exploring highest quality Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne. Over the years, due to different medical issues, she couldn’t tolerate an acidity in the wine anymore. She had to completely dismiss red wines (unless there is some sweet red), couldn’t touch Brut, just Demi style of Champagne. I am planing to buy some great Rieslings for her. I also have few bottles of Prosecco that I like. It’s dry, so I will mix Belini’s for her. The white peach nectar that goes to Belini, is pretty sweet.
Isn’t it funny, what happens to our taste buds over the years? Do you have a similar experience? Write me about it, I would love to hear more!