In wine circles, especially international wine circles, it's accepted as gospel that there is something casually referred to as the "American Palate." Ignoring for a moment the fact that almost all generalizations are faulty at their root, how on earth could there be something that joins 300 million people spread out over thousands of miles, and descended from hundreds of cultures?

Well, that's a mighty fine question and one worth a bit of investigation. As much as we like to believe taste is defined by our informed choices, the facts are that four, or perhaps five factors determine how we taste. The universally accepted tastes are salty, sweet, sour, and bitter, with umami fighting for acceptance, though not mine. So what is going on with the so-called "American palate"?