Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Palate Cleanser

As winemakers, we face a problem that you may not share: carryover effects when tasting a lot of wines. In blending trials this can be particularly acute, as the wines we try to choose among differ very slightly from one another. Tannins accumulate with each wine, making the actual tannin impact of the following wine that much harder to judge. Something to cleanse the palate that does not also affect it would be a huge boon for us.

And it might be for you, as well. This may be a bit of a stretch, but if you are planning a tasting of numerous wines, or if you want to be able to enjoy a Pinot Noir after having coconut creme pie, a good palate cleanser would be just the thing. And you might find it useful beyond wine, as well.

Winemakers do use palate cleansers, of course. Plain water is the most common. Sometimes a dilute solution of pectin is used (pectin can help sweep up tannins). Bland crackers are, alas, also common. Until recently, our favorite palate cleanser has been sparkling water. We love it, first of all, but we also believe that the carbonation helps purge tannins and other sensory-impacting compounds.

Photo by SanTásti
Recently we learned about SanTásti, a beverage formulated by winemakers to use as a palate cleanser. We requested and were graciously sent samples. We devised a fiendishly devilish series of tests for the drink, and we are now ready to report on Round 1.

We feasted on delicious homemade char siu bao (pork buns), not the most wine-friendly fare. We sipped a Barokes Chardonnay, IN A CAN! (But that's another story.) Notes will follow. We also had a Napa Cabernet.

We tried each wine to get a baseline, and we also tried the SanTásti, which tasted remarkably like sparkling water. It differs mostly in having a slightly more viscous mouthfeel. There is a tiny amount of sugar in SanTásti (a whole bottle has a mere 10 calories), but we did not detect any sweetness.

In our trial, we started with pork bun->SanTásti->Cabernet. The Cabernet tasted as it did before the meal, and was unaffected by the sweetness of the pork bun. Next we tried pork bun->SanTásti->Chardonnay, again finding the wine unaffected by the intense flavoring of the pork bun. We ended the trial with pork bun->Chardonnay (with no SanTásti in between) ->SanTásti->Cabernet->SanTásti->Chardonnay. No surprises though we did think the Cabernet tasted a little bit dilute after the SanTásti. We speculate that the viscosity had a mouth-coating effect that kept us from tasting the tannin in the wine. In other words, the SanTásti seemed to work too well.

We are intrigued by this product and we look forward to testing it further. We have every intention of using SanTásti in our professional capacities. Stay tuned for further reports and for our thoughts on the Barokes wines in cans.
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