Are you a Supertaster with wine?
If you have more than 30 taste buds in a space the size of a hole punch on your tongue then you are a supertaster. You also might be a picky eater. Learn what a supertaster is and see if you are one. If you’re not, don’t worry, you can still learn to be great at tasting wine.
There are 3 types of tasters in the world:
- “Average Taster”
A simple test to see if you’re a supertaster
Punch a standard notebook hole into a clean piece of plastic or wax paper and put it on the front part of your tongue. Then, count the bigger taste buds—called papilla. It’s actually pretty tricky to spot, so if you want to be more accurate, be sure to drink some red wine beforehand to stain your tongue. Count how many you have and see below for what kind of taster you are.
Don’t worry if you’re not a supertaster, there’s help below!
Supertaster 30+ taste buds
Everything tastes intense: from salty, sweet, sour, the sensation of fat and bitter. The classic ’tell’ to a supertaster is someone who hates bitter vegetables such as brussels sprouts or kale. Despite its stupendous sounding name, being a ‘supertaster’ may actually mean you’re less likely to enjoy bitter drinks such as bitter beers (like IPA) and high tannin full-bodied red wines (You’re a Pinot Noir drinker vs. a Nebbiolo drinker). It also means that you tend to eat bland foods over super rich foods that taste too ‘oily’. You may be a picky eater, but being a Supertaster is actually pretty good: studies by researcher Linda Bartoshuk at Yale University have shown that supertasters are less likely to be obese than non-tasters — just be sure to eat your leafy greens.
Average Taster 15-30 taste buds
You like bitter vegetables and you probably enjoy earthy and savory wines. About 50% of people tested in the US were average tasters, so this could be you. An average taster can still taste the same bitter flavors that a supertaster tastes, but they don’t cause you to wince. Because of this, you’re a try-anything taster. Your ability to taste better can be improved with a few skills.
Non-Taster below 15 taste buds
That bowl of 5-star spicy Thai food doesn’t make you whimper in pain and you love high-tannin wines. You tend to lean towards rich foods, spicy foods and strongly flavored foods. You don’t taste bitter the same way as others do. In fact, some non-tasters don’t taste bitterness at all. Your experience with food and wine is much different than the other two types of tasters. I bet you’re not surprised that your friends can’t handle what you like to eat. Not to worry, if you love wine, you can still learn to taste better. The only thing you should watch out for is to eat more healthy foods, even if they’re boring.
Regardless of what kind of taster you are, you can become better at tasting wine:
- Use your nose
- The majority of your sense of taste comes from your nose. Find out how to assess wine’s aromas
- Pay attention to texture
- Besides the taste of a food or wine, pay attention to texture and how a taste evolves in your mouth. Need an example, check out the taste profile of Cabernet Sauvignon
- Slow down
- Take your time with everything you taste, this will help you develop a better sense of taste. See Madeline on How to Taste Wine
By the way, everyone starts out with around 10,000 taste buds that your body naturally replaces every 2 weeks. As you age, this number goes down to about half. So no matter who you are, it’s important to maximize your ability to taste while you can. Your tastebud numbers can also be reduced from smoking or drinking scalding beverages.
Learn the pro technique to wine tasting
Learn what techniques the pros use and teach for tasting wine.
The Geek Technique for Tasting Red Wine
If you want a more detailed “how to” on testing yourself, check out this article on scientificamerican.com
Yale research article about Linda Bartoshuk’s work
A Matter of Taste on smithsonianmag.com
An article about how taste (and sensing fat) relates to obesity the-scientist.com
Supertaster at risk of cancer because of lack of flavenoids in their diets newscientist.com
A well-written article called Taste Buds on kidshealth.org