Let’s face it. No one likes to be around someone with, dare we say it, bad breath. Of course gums, mints and mouthwashes can quickly solve the problem. But for wine lovers there’s a flip side. Did you ever try tasting wine after taking a breath freshener or brushing your teeth? Colgate and Crest may be social confidence boosters, but will kill off any chance of tasting a wine’s nuances.
Wine is best tasted (and evaluated) with as neutral a palate as possible, and competing leftover tastes like mints, spicy food, coffee and even a thirst-quenching beer before dinner can mask the taste of wine, as I recently reminded myself.
It was a Friday night at the end of a busy week. After a cold beer to unwind I was ready for a bite to eat — a no-frills turkey pot pie. I was eager to try a white wine from California — the 2006 Pinot Blanc from the Laetitia Winery in the Arroyo Grande Valley in San Luis Obispo County north of Santa Barbara.
But as I took a few first sips I knew that something wasn’t quite right. The wine tasted flat, uninteresting; I wasn’t getting much at all from it. So I put the cork back in and placed the bottle in the refrigerator. Fortunately, this wasn’t the end of the story.
I will often try a wine the next day to get a second opinion, so to speak, and when I did so with Laetitia’s pinot blanc at lunch my impression was completely different. The wine had come alive, or, perhaps more to the point, I now tasted its lovely subtleties, my mouth unencumbered by a day’s worth of competing tastes.
This is a delicate wine, as pinot blanc often is, providing a marked contrast to many California chardonnays. Laetitia’s version has notes of apple, orange, pineapple and other tropical fruit, with a touch of ginger, minerals and subtle oak from partial barrel fermentation and aging. The wine is also marked by a crisp and refreshing acidity, reflecting a cool climate and cooler-than-normal growing season in 2006.
As for those breath and taste issues, my advice is to forget about strong fresheners. When wine is concerned, nothing helps clear the palate like the fresh and neutral taste of water.
Edward Deitch’s wine column appears every week. He is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at