“The important thing about wine is if you like it or not”. This is a perfectly acceptable statement to make, but it’s talking about our personal taste. What is amazing is that the wine industry has developed some criteria to establish (and eventually rate) the quality in wine. I will summarize them in 4 categories: balance, precision, complexity and persistence.
1. Balance: this describes a wine where the structural components of the taste (acid, alcohol, fruit and tannin) are percieved in equilibrium. To this “balanced quality”, you can add the term integration when a wine is so well done, that all of these structural components are not only in equilibrium but you cannot identify them separately.
2. Precision: this is used to say a wine is defined and expressive and clearly shows its specific aromas and tastes.
3. Complexity: this refers to the complexity in the aromas and how they appear sequentially while you taste the wine. Again, some authors bring this complexity attribute to higher levels, further describing the quality with two more aspects:
- The sense that the complexity should go beyond the fruit taste and show richer flavors as coffee, leather, chocolate, spices, etc.
- And also, they talk about the choreography to describe how these aromas move and appear, adding expressions like “slowly growing” or “explosive attack”.
4. Persistence: this indicates how long the taste of the wine remains in your mouth and nose. And here, the rule is simple: the longer, the better.
This said, there are other attributes of the wine that experts use to define the quality, but they are more advanced concepts for a wine beginner. To be complete, I will include them here for those who are interested, but we will cover these concepts in more detail later on:
A. Distinctiveness: this means that a wine should be highly recognizable, that is to say that you could not confuse it with any other. If you you say that the wine in your glass tastes the same as another of the same variety or from the same region… It is not disctint… But, to arrive at that point requires you to know the standard flavors of varieties and regions, and how the one you have is different.
B. Connectivity to the land: this is how well a wine matches and belongs to a place. I think it is a bit like playing the game of the what element does not belong. Can you imagine yourself drinking bourbon in a beergarten? The taste of the wine should reflect, somehow, the sense of place of its origin. But, again, this is something hard to determine for a beginner.
C. Emotion: this is the emotional response to the wine. I know some of you can be thinking this is stupid and snobbish… But bring it to a more colloquial point: how does having a cup of tea in front of a fire in a rainy day make you feel?. That’s it. Something you drink can provoke an emotial response.