Folks often ask us for guidance on the best way to expand their wine tasting palate.
Our answer always includes a confession — before moving to the South of France six years ago, we were narrow-minded tasters. If a wine didn’t taste familiar, we would turn up our noses and move on. Since most of the wines we encountered were from American producers, “familiar” generally meant heavily oaked (US winemakers tend to use oak more liberally that their European counterparts).
Our wine “awakening” occurred after a wine tasting tour with Vin en Vacances which exposed us to the extraordinary winemaking renaissance underway in the Languedoc-Roussillon. The experience was so profound that we launched Princess and The Bear Wines to share the delicious, affordable, artisanal gems of this region with American wine lovers.
Carignan, a native grape of the Mediterranean
Since that first experience, our palates have expanded dramatically. We’ve tasted over a thousand cuvées, eagerly trying wines made with unusual grape varieties and vinification methods. Where once we gravitated to heavily oaked Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons, now we prefer wines with minimal or no oak, allowing the grape varietal to express its qualities in the terroir where its roots live.
Our current favorite white wine is Cyprius from Domaine La Bouysse ($22.99/@), a blend of Grenache Blanc, Vermentino and Macabeu. While some light oak is detectable, the natural acidity of the Mediterranean grape varieties keeps the wine fresh and lively.
Crisp white wines, like Cyprius from Domaine La Bouysse, are a welcome departure from the heavily oaked style of American Chardonnays
The independent winemakers of the Languedoc-Roussillon create wines from a wonderfully diverse range of grape varieties. Many of these varieties were unknown to us before we moved to the region, such as Carignan, a native grape of the Mediterranean.
La Deves, a Carignan-dominant cuvée, has become one of the Princess’s favorite wines. The hints of suede leather are a reminder of her Texas roots!
La Deves, a Carignan-dominant cuvée from Domaine Des Trinités
Today, we value quality, personality, and character in wines, rather than familiarity. The "zing" of a fresh white wine excites us much more than heavily oaked whites. Herbal wines interest us more than fruity. Even slightly oxidized wines have a place in our expanded palate (Princess more than Bear 😊).
We approach every new wine as if it might become a treasured favorite, regardless of price, label, or critical response. And we don't expect everyone's taste to align with ours. Wine tasting can be incredibly personal and subjective. Just as some people love peach pie and others love broccoli quiche, so each taster has unique preferences for the taste, aroma, and feel of different wines.
So — what is the real secret to expanding your palate? The answer can be equally applied to our relationships as to wine — keep an open mind and try not to judge in advance.
A votre santé,
Carol Bailey and Steve Medwell
Founders, Princess and The Bear Wines