How to identify a good wine?

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Wine can easily make or ruin an evening, and the most expensive bottle is not necessarily the best choice. Therefore, having some knowledge about wine and what makes a good bottle is important. The variety of wines is vast and it can be overwhelming for newbies in the wine world. But this variety also allows us to discover a world of aromas and flavours in each glass, adding something special to every dinner or evening with friends.

Becoming a wine connoisseur takes years of experience and it is very much a trial and error process. However, there are some characteristics that can help us choose good wine without having to ask the sommelier. It is true that wine is a subjective matter, someone might love a bottle while another person thinks it is fairly average. Still, the key characteristics of good wines can be summarised in the below list:

First of all, the most obvious characteristic of good wine is its colour. Various types of wines have different colours and shades, and a good quality wine must adhere to the colour of its category. If we look closely under the light, we can see the shades of wines more clearly. It certainly helps to know what the true colour of the wine is supposed to be, so if you have a favourite, familiarise yourself with its exact colour so you will be able to recognise a good bottle when you see one. There are many more important factors in the quality of wine, but the right colour is certainly an excellent start.

A nice smell is another important characteristic of good wine. Before drinking any glass, you should smell it. Smelling wine is the first step to taking in and enjoying its aroma. Take a moment to breathe in your wine and get familiar with the different smells that it possesses. What do these smells remind you of? Can you distinguish different fruits of flowers from each other? Enjoy the smell of your wine and prepare yourself to rediscover the different fruits and flowers you identified at your first sip. Make sure you take things slowly, and you will enjoy your tasting experience much more.

Now it is time to take a sip from your glass. Not a very large one, the first sip should be moderate so you can fully enjoy how the different flavours develop on the palate. The flavour of the wine is an important factor and a very complex one. If we taste wine in the right way, we will discover a world of flavour in each bottle. That is if they are not killed by sourness. This is the most distinctive characteristic of poor quality wine and something which is easily spotted. If the wine is sour and you cannot taste much else underneath it, you’ve unfortunately been served a bad bottle. On the contrary, if the wine is smooth and pleasing, take some time to fully appreciate all its different tones. The quality of wine is also about its depth. It is nice to be able to taste strawberries or raisins in your glass, but can you also taste something underneath them? Do you feel like the flavour is layered? What is underneath it? Tasting wine is an exciting discovering process. Perhaps not the first time, but with experience, you will be able to taste different fruits and flowers in your drink. Learning about wine takes patience but it is a very rewarding and satisfying experience.

When we talk about long wines, we are talking about how long the taste of wine stays in your mouth. The persistence of the flavours is another distinctive characteristic of good wine. The longer the flavour stays with you, the better the wine. Usually, a good wine will stay for about 10 seconds or more in your mouth. Any less, it means that the wine is probably not good enough or it has aged badly. The persistence of wine is particularly important when enjoyed with food, as it can bring the dining experience to a whole new level. Persistence is also the reason why a good wine should not be drank quickly. To simply sip it and swallow it doesn’t allow enough time for the flavour to develop in our mouths and doesn’t do the wine justice. In addition to persistent taste, good wine has a persistent smell too. After smelling good wine, pay attention to how long it stays in your nose. It should be a few seconds at least.

Complexity is something most wine experts talk about, but what does it really mean? Complexity is about the balance of the different flavours and aromas in the wine. If a wine is good, you won’t taste much alcohol, tanning or acidity – they will leave space for more pleasant flavours for you to enjoy. As we have discovered already, there are several different fruits and flowers that contribute to the calibre of good wine. However, if one of them is too overpowering, it will suffocate the others and affect the complexity of the flavours. In order to enjoy all the different nuances, there needs to be the right balance between them. Do not worry if you cannot taste much in your wine while other people can. It can take some time to get used to and appreciate different types of wine. Our palates categorise flavours differently, so you might taste something in your wine that another person can’t, and vice versa. This is the beauty of wine and the reason why it brings people together. Drinking good wine is a social occasion and something which brings us closer to people.

Last but not least, pay attention to the packaging of a bottle. Fine wine undergoes a rigorous process from the moment the grapes are picked to when it reaches your table. Winemaking is an art and the producers who are serious about it also make sure the packaging is of a high standard. The look and feel of the bottle should reflect the quality of what is inside.

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