Good, Bad, or Great ?
Everyone has a different palate preference so objectivity is required to fairly determine if a wine is good, bad, or great.
What is a Bad Wine?
Not liking a wine does not make it bad. A wine is considered bad under 2 conditions: faulty or imbalanced.
Most common wine faults are oxidization and cork taint. The associated notes are sherry / vinegar and cardboard boxes respectively.
When tasting wine, we enjoy a combination of its fruits, alcohol, tannin, acidity, sweetness, and body. Imbalance means one element awkwardly stands out. For example, a wine that leaves a burning sensation on the throat is out of balance, as there is insufficient fruit intensity and body to integrate (and contain) the alcohol. Another example is a commercial wine that is overly oaked without sufficient fruit leaving a hollow mid palate.
What is a Good Wine?
A good wine is not faulty and has a great balance. As mentioned, it means all the elements complement one another and no one element awkwardly stands out.
What defines a Great Wine?
A great wine is a good wine that has the below 5 factors:
1. Outstanding Varietal Character: It is important to remember the grape variety when assessing a wine. For example, having an intensely oaky nose does not imply quality on a Pinot Noir. However being intensely aromatic, with a sexy delicacy and a silky texture would qualify.
2. Good Intensity: An intense aroma on the nose and palate implies a good concentration of fruits in the bottle. This can only result from using high quality grapes and undergoing a rigorous production method to preserve the varietal character. How do you tell if a wine has good intensity – You can smell its aroma while holding the glass at chest level. On the palate, it is dynamic and flavorful.
3. Complexity differs from intensity. For example, an intense wine can be simple (with only one dominant flavor). A complex wine makes you think. It has layers of aromas and a diverse range of flavors. The aroma changes with time. It is not one-dimensional, flat, nor boring.
4. A long finish is a good indication of quality. How many seconds do the wine remain in your palate after swallowing or spitting. Many great Bordeaux Grand Cru has finishes that last 30 seconds, but 15 seconds is a good benchmark for a great wine.
5. Emotional reaction: It is captivating, makes you happy and more importantly, eager to have another sniff, another sip.
When judging wine professionally, it is only fair to compare the wine against its variety, gauge the balance of its elements, and not be biased by our palate or brand preference.
I would encourage you to taste wines side-by-side, and blind (without seeing the label and without knowing the price). You may be surprised how some everyday priced wines could stand up to premium titans.
Recommended Pages: Wine Tasting Techniques
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