What makes a wine a good wine?

As the old and unattributed adage goes, life is too short to drink bad wine - but what makes a wine good or bad?
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It is not simply a matter of taste. Personal preference in wine is very important but it is also very subjective. To assess whether a wine is good or not requires a more objective view and there are three main criteria that we look for (you may recognise a few words that pop up in Wines With Attitude's unique tasting notes).
  • First and foremost, quality wine should have balance - to be specific, a balance of acidity, sweetness, alcohol and tannins (in red and to some extent in rosé wines). All these components should be integrated and complement each other; none should be too obvious. A certain amount of acidity is good as it balances the sweetness of the grapes and gives the wine freshness; it can usually be felt on the sides of the tongue. Tannins help a good red wine to age and develop further; they should be smooth and integrated - or with the potential to soften as the wine ages in bottle. Too little and a wine can seem flat, too much will "fur up" the inside of your cheeks. Alcohol should be sufficient to give body but should not be overpowering; too much can catch the back of your throat.
  • Secondly look for complexity of flavour. If a wine is one-dimensional in taste e.g. it just tastes of blackcurrants and nothing else, it is not likely to be of good quality. The more aromas that you notice - and you may need to swirl the wine around your mouth and suck in some air to appreciate the full range of flavours - the better, be they different fruit flavours, nuts, coffee, honey, straw, flowers, petrol or spices...  WWA wine glass cropped with wide RHS.jpg
  • The third important feature is finish which is simply the length of time that the flavours of the wine remain in your mouth after swallowing. The taste of one-dimensional wines tends to fade very quickly.  As a general rule, the longer the finish, the better the wine.
 
A quality wine does not have to be very expensive but it really is worth moving away from entry-level wine as you have a much higher likelihood of finding a good quality wine above that level - only about £1.70 of a £7.50 bottle relates to the wine itself, the rest being made up of VAT, duties, packaging, transportation etc. At £15 that figure rises to about £6, so better bang for your buck.
 
Take the quality wine test and look out for balance, complexity and a long finish in your wines.  You will find that you enjoy your wines more.


Lindsay Cornelissen DipWSET, www.wineswithattitude.co.uk
© Wines With Attitude Limited
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Lindsay is passionate about good quality wine and set up her online wine business, Wines With Attitude, in 2014 to share that passion with other wine lovers.

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