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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Decades ago I used to enjoy a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, but not so much anymore. What's changed? The wines, or me?
—Leticia, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
It could be you, or the wines, or both.
It’s very common for our wine tastes to evolve over time, and Cabernet Sauvignon may no longer be the wine for you. That’s OK. Our palates change as we age, and so do our tastes. Just as you might not eat at the same restaurants you did 20 years ago or wear the same clothes you wore in the 1980s, you might not like the same wines you liked back then.
On one hand, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes will always be Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and wines made from that grape will reflect Cabernet's core flavors of dark red fruits and firm tannins. But there are countless ways to tweak the grapegrowing and winemaking processes and, yes, popular wine styles change with the times. When it comes to Cabernet, that’s perhaps most evident with trends in California. Over the past 30 years, the pendulum has swung back and forth from austere, rustic versions to riper, plusher flavors, to the current trend of backing away from high ripeness. Of course, many producers don't follow the trends.
I think most wine lovers have had a day here or there when a wine they normally love seems disappointing, and there are physical issues that can suppress your appetite, leave a bad taste in your mouth, or affect how much you enjoy food and drink, like a change in diet, medications, pregnancy, infections, acid reflux or dental problems.
If you suspect you may be experiencing a serious distortion of your sense of taste, like dysgeusia, it could be a symptom of more serious problems and you should mention it to your real doctor.
In the meantime, I hope you don’t give up on wine, and continue to explore all the many types of flavors and styles out there. The next time you try a Cabernet, do me a favor and make sure the wine’s not served too warm (which might make it seem alcoholic) or too cold (which might mask its flavors and aromas). My sweet spot for Cabernet is around 65° F, which is a bit cooler than most room temperatures.
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.