14 Refreshing Palate Cleansers for Wine Tasting
One of the hardest things you might experience while trying to develop a good palate for wine is learning to remove distractions so you can really focus on what you’re tasting.
After the first two or three wines, it's naturally way harder to dissect nuanced flavors and form a solid opinion.
Luckily, palate cleansers can help aid you in restoring your palate and making it easier to fully embrace the next wine in your tasting. You can also protect your palate for longer by tasting wines in a specific order.
Below are a couple of fool-proof wine-friendly palate cleansers that can help freshen your palate and allow you to appreciate each wine with the same level of enthusiasm.
Bread is one of the best foods to aid in refreshing your palate. Not to mention, it also keeps you full so you don’t get too intoxicated and lose sight of the mission - to taste and think about wine!
Serving bread as your palate cleanser doesn’t have to be complicated. Even just a few slices of a fresh French baguette will work. If you want to get fancy, you can toast it and serve it alongside fresh extra virgin olive oil or plain butter.
Okay, maybe crackers aren’t as sexy as fresh French bread, but nonetheless, it does the job of keeping you full and absorbing those rich flavors from your previous wine. Plain crackers will do just fine, or you can serve them with mild cheeses, as mentioned below.
While it’s true that powerful cheeses such as brie or blue cheese can complement a wine, it can also be an imperfect pairing with some of the wines in your tasting.
For example, blue cheese would work wonderfully with Malbec, but not necessarily with a Pinot Gris.
So, if you want a tasty palate cleanser that translates well from wine to wine, stick with mild cheddar, gouda, or fresh mozzarella. This is best served along with fresh bread or crackers.
Room Temperature Water
Perhaps the most obvious, but also the most important. Water, and time, are the only true foolproof methods for diluting the long-lasting flavors of a wine. Room temperature is best, as too hot or too cold can burn/numb the palate.
Mint is refreshing, so it makes sense that tasting a few sprigs of mint in between tastings can help to freshen the palate and give a new appreciation for what’s to come. That being said, be careful not to overdo it, as it can be overwhelming by itself if done in excess.
When it comes to serving mint, a few leaves garnished on a charcuterie board makes for a beautiful presentation and delivery. Alternatively, mint sorbet or mint-infused water would work as well, but more on those later.
In Japanese culture, pickled ginger is served alongside sushi to refresh and revitalize the palate. So, why not incorporate a little fusion into your next wine tasting? It’s creative and uncomplicated, plus your guests will appreciate the fun twist.
Sorbet is a traditional palate cleanser that many upscale French restaurants serve in between courses. Typically reserved for heavy or high-fat dishes, this is a great option if you’re incorporating wine tasting into a dinner that also incorporates wine pairings.
When selecting the perfect sorbet, stick to one that isn’t overly sweet. Ideally, citrus or mint sorbet is best. Lemon sorbet is typically the easiest to find at your nearest grocery store.
Related: We list the most actionable ways to improve your wine tasting skills.
Pears or Apples
Pears and apples make for excellent palate cleansers because they aren’t overly flavorful, and they have a good balance of sugar and acid to brighten up and refresh a tired palate.
They also happen to pair well with many white wines by offering complimentary flavors, while not stealing the show from a richly flavored red wine. Raw, unseasoned pears or apples are best.
Parsley or Cilantro
Similar to mint, fresh herbs make for a wonderful palate cleanser. Parsley in particular is a widely used herb for cleaning and refreshing one’s palate.
If you’re looking for a complimentary appetizer to serve during a wine tasting, then fresh bread and chimichurri (an Argentinian parsley-based sauce) are hands down a perfect choice.
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To be honest, there’s a pretty hefty debate on the merits of carbonated water as a palate cleanser.
Some wine connoisseurs believe that effervescence interferes with the wine, but I’m of the belief that if it’s good enough to compliment an espresso then it should be good enough to refresh one’s palate at a wine tasting. That being said, stick to simple unflavored carbonated soda water.
Crudites (Carrot, Zucchini, Celery, Cucumber)
In addition to making a beautiful display, a simple tray of assorted vegetables is a great palate cleanser.
Celery, summer squash, carrots, and cucumber are all excellent choices to absorb the flavors from your previous wine, while also giving you a little break in between each tasting.
Melon makes for a great palate cleanser because it is mild in flavor, not too sweet, and hydrating, making for a refreshing reprieve from a sometimes heavy evening of wine-tasting. This can be incorporated into a crudites display wonderfully as well.
As opposed to most of the options listed above, olives provide a pleasant saltiness and nutty flavor that not only balances out rich wines but also compliments them.
Serve olives, or tapenade, alongside fresh bread and roasted nuts, and your guests would never be able to guess you’ve created the perfect palate cleansing tray.
Mint or Cucumber Water
Combine the hydrating effect of water with the refreshing addition of sliced cucumber or fresh mint. Still mild in flavor, this is a great palate cleanser to sip on in between tastings that won’t overpower or counterbalance the flavor of the wine.
As you might have guessed by now, there are numerous equally useful palate cleansers that can aid in absorbing flavors from a previous wine, and help you move on to the next one with ease.
Of course, time is also your friend when it comes to refreshing your palate, so don’t be afraid to give yourself a breather in between tastings, you’ll thank yourself later!
Do you have a 'go to' palate cleanser that you want to share? We'd love to hear about any unusual ideas you have in the comments section.