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The Final Evaluation- How To Tell If A Wine Is "good"

by Jennifer Evans

Alas! We have reached the final article in our wine tasting series. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a more in-depth look at each of the steps in wine tasting, from seeing to sniffing to sipping. Now that you’ve spent some time with the wine, it’s time to make a final decision: was it good or bad?

That’s a pretty simple question for most people, because it’s all about you. If you liked it, it was good. If not, bad. It’s a little more complicated when you’re making a recommendation for someone else or when your job is to critique wine. You want to be as objective as possible, which can be challenging because wine tasting is so subjective. It can also be helpful to know what you liked or disliked about a wine when you’re looking for something new to try.

Generally, wine is judged on these main areas:
1. Balance- All of the wine’s characteristics must be in balance. There can’t be too much acid without some sugar to balance it, or it will be overly tart and thin. If there is too much flavor intensity from the fruit, it will seem sweet, but if the tannins are firm enough they’ll help prevent that. Everyone notices each characteristic a little differently, but try to take each in turn and see how it plays against the others, and then evaluate the balance as a whole.
2. Length and finish- Wine should leave you with a pleasant taste and sensation in your mouth. If it does not, it has a poor finish. The pleasantness should also linger for awhile instead of disappearing as soon as the wine is gone. Longer finishes with pleasant characteristics are generally considered better.
3. Complexity- Some wines are not meant to be complex, but most of the time a variety of flavors and aromas is considered a good thing. The goal is to have either multiple primary flavors and aromas or a range of primary, secondary, and tertiary flavors and aromas.
4. Flavor intensity- Pretty much anytime you eat or drink something, you want to be able to taste it, right? The same goes for wine. If you can’t taste the fruit flavors over the structural characteristics, the wine probably shouldn’t be ranked as great. The wine should also taste like it should based on the grape variety, where it was grown, and how the wine was made. For example, you should notice bright citrus and tropical fruit notes in a 2 year old unoaked Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It shouldn’t taste like mushrooms and leather. If it does, something odd probably happened to it.

Once you’ve evaluated the wine on the above 4 characteristics, it’s time to give it a final grade. This is where different rating organizations really differ. Some give points, others prefer categories. Do this however you wish but make sure to be consistent or you’ll confuse yourself and others! And remember: if you’re evaluating wine for yourself, all that matters is that you like it. If you’re evaluating it for someone else, keep in mind that everyone’s palate is different. The more you can describe what the wine is like objectively, the easier it will be to recommend the wine to others.

About the Author

Jennifer Evans - Jennifer is a lover of all things wine who loves to share it with others. She specializes in teaching newcomers to the world of wine and coming up with off-the-wall pairings. Jennifer is WSET Level 2 certified and the founder of The Sugar Vine.

Visit Jennifer Evans's Website