How To Know The Quality Of A Wine

How To Spot A Great Quality Wine

Wine is one of the most popular drinks in the world. And quite right to, it’s amazing. A great wine can make your day. A poor quality one can spoil it. To help you enjoy more great wine experiences, here are some easy ways to spot the wine wheat from the wine chaff.

Quality Of A Wine

Wine: The language of the label

While you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can judge a wine by its label. Labels can give you great insights into what a wine will be like. The most obvious one is where it’s from. A wine from one of the classic regions, be it Bordeaux, Burgundy, California, or Marlborough should be good as it’s had to achieve a certain quality to bear the name.

The vintage – the year in which it was made can tell you a lot, too. A red Bordeaux with ‘2015’ on the label should be fantastic now. The same wine with ‘1991’ on it, is unlikely to have been that great then, let alone now. If you’re buying a fine wine, check out a vintage chart online to see how good the year was.

Regional classifications are another good indication of quality. Rioja Reserva and Gran Reserva wines, for instance, are only made in excellent years from the finest fruit. Similarly, if you see ‘Grand Cru’ on a bottle of white Burgundy it’s likely to be breath-taking. If breathtakingly pricey.

Who made the wine will have a massive impact on the wine’s quality. There are now more wine producers in the world than stars in the sky. OK, there aren’t but it feels that way sometimes. The truth is there are a lot. Sticking to ones you know is a safe bet, but you’ll miss out on the joy of discovering new wines. When looking at wines from unfamiliar producers, look for award wins or high scores from leading critics. Pick a wine with a 90+ points and you should be on to a winner.

Wine: It’s all about balance…

While a little reading is good for the soul, it’s only when you get the wine in your glass that you’ll know if you have a pearl or a sow’s ear. When it comes to tasting, think about:

  1. Aroma – different styles of wine and different grapes will give different aromas. Riesling is floral, fresh and intense, while Cabernet Sauvignon offers bold blackcurrants and green peppers. Others, such as Chenin Blanc – watermelon and wet wool (I kid you not) - or Nebbiolo – roses, olives and earth - are often far subtler. If the wine’s been aged in oak you may pick up scents of vanilla, butter or tropical fruits. Whatever the case, you’re looking for harmony. A complex, harmonious ‘bouquet’ is usually a sign of quality.

  2. Taste – take a sip, breathe in through your nose, and see what you can taste. Ideally, you want something that’s complex, that offers fruit and savoury, fresh, and mellow. Young red wines will often have a slight bitterness to them. Young fine red wines may leave your mouth feeling like you haven’t brushed your teeth in a week. That’s fine, that’s just tannin which helps wines age and so you’ll need to let them breath. With time open these tannins tend to soften and fade. What you taste will obviously depend on the style of wine, but too much acidity, a metallic note, or a whiff of rotten eggs (sulphur) are all signs of a poor-quality wine.

    Finally, once you’ve swallowed, see how long the aftertaste goes on for. This is called the ‘finish’ (can’t think why…). A complex, long finish is a sign of great quality wine.
  1. Balance – wine, like life, is all about balance. In the perfect glass of wine you should have enough of everything and not too much of anything. Too much fruit, it’s one-dimensional. Not enough and it’s not enjoyable. Too many aromatics, it’s like drinking perfume. Too little, it can feel ‘thin’ and tasteless. Too much acidity and it can taste harsh and unpleasant. Not enough, it can feel heavy and dull. Balance, balance, all is balance.

Like to know more about wine?

We hope you’ve found this guide to spotting a quality wine useful. If you’d like to explore the world of wine then why not become a Perfect Cellar member? With our exclusive TastingBOXES, interactive tastings via Alexa, and an incredible range of wines, we have everything you need to enjoy finer wine. Perfect.

You may also be interested in reading our red wine guide, white wine guide and sparkling wine guide.


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