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4 Crucial Factors that Determine Good Wine (be like a PRO)

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There are many crucial factors that determine good wine.

For example, high-quality wines will express intense flavors and a lingering finish, with flavors lasting after you’ve swallowed the wine. Flavors that disappear immediately can indicate that your wine is of moderate quality at best. The better the wine, the longer the flavor finish will last on your palate.

 If you’re a collector of fine wines, you want to ensure what you’re purchasing is of consistently high quality. Regardless of whether you’re just starting out or have already accrued an extensive collection, each new wine you add should meet a minimum level of quality, and ideally, each should be exceptional.

Quality is important not only in the wines you drink but also in the wines in your collection you wish to sell. Read on to learn about specific factors that will determine good wine.

How to Determine Good Wine
How to Determine Good Wine

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How Would You Describe a Good Wine

Describing a good wine can be defined as qualifying what wine quality actually is. The four factors that contribute to wine quality are climate and weather, temperature and sunlight, growing practices, and winemaking practices. When you know what influences and signifies wine quality, you’ll be in a better position to make good purchases.

Wine quality refers to the factors that go into producing wine, as well as the indicators or characteristics that tell you if the wine is of high quality. 

You’ll recognize your preferences and how your favorite wines can change with each harvest. Your appreciation for wines will deepen once you’re familiar with wine quality levels and how wines vary in taste from region to region.

Some wines are of higher quality than others due to the factors described below. From climate to viticulture to winemaking, a multitude of factors make some wines exceptional and others run-of-the-mill.

  1. Climate and Weather: The terroir of wine has a clear-cut influence on its quality. Climate and weather help determine how quickly wine grapes grow, how much flavor and juiciness they have, and how well those grapes can be turned into wine.

Climate is (relatively) stable. Cooler climates produce wines higher in acidity but lower in sugar and alcohol.

Hotter climates encourage ripening, leading to wines with higher sugars, higher alcohol, and a fuller body. Producers trying to grow varieties that don’t do well in that specific climate will produce a wine of lower quality.

Weather, on the other hand, can have a more direct, immediate effect on wine quality. It can even spell the difference between a good vintage and a bad vintage. Wines with higher quality will come from grapes that received exactly the inputs they needed.

  1. Temperature and Sunlight:  Photosynthesis is an essential part of the process. In order for this to be carried out, temperatures must be between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

In regions with average temperatures closer to 60 degrees F, short-cycle varieties will be successful but long-cycle ones won’t. If temperatures are too hot, though, the grapes will ripen too quickly, cutting short the time needed for flavor, color, and other compounds to fully develop.

  1. Growing Practices: In addition to what the land and sky provide, the ways in which a producer manipulates the vines will also influence the quality of the resultant wine. Canopy management often includes removing extra leaves and shoots to increase sunlight exposure, while pruning removes select branches to control yields and keep vines healthy.

Harvesting is another crucial factor since a harvest that is too early or late can lead to grapes lacking their ideal balance. Whether producers harvest manually or mechanically also influences grape quality.

Mechanical harvesting can’t apply selective-picking methods, but it does allow for speedy harvests when bad weather threatens to ruin the grapes. Conversely, manual harvesting is slower, but it ensures that only high-quality grapes make it to the winery.

  1. Winemaking Practices: The winemaking process is equally important in determining the final quality of the wine. Wineries follow four main steps when producing their wines, maceration, fermentation, extraction, and aging, and they must ensure consistency to get the most from their grapes.

What Does Good Wine Taste Like

A good wine should taste as though it displays the definition and clarity of flavors. The different aromas are perceived as focused, precise and expressive. On the other hand, if the flavors appear blurred – that detracts from the overall quality of the wine.

To understand clarity in wine, think about listening to music via a radio station. If the radio frequency is not perfectly tuned, you can still hear the song, but the melody is disturbed.

The music loses its integrity, disrupted by interference and discordant noises. Conversely, when the station is perfectly tuned, you can hear the music clearly. The sound is precise and free from annoying distortions.

TIP: Check out the 7 common reasons why your wine turns brown and how to fix it in this article I wrote.

How Can You Tell if Wine is Good Quality

How Can You Tell if Wine is Good Quality
How Can You Tell if Wine is Good Quality

There are four indicators of wine quality. They are complexity (complex flavor profile), balance (no single component sticks out like a sore thumb), typicity (it tastes indicative of what that particular wine should taste like), and intensity and finish. 

Read below for more details on the four indicators of wine quality.

Complexity: Higher quality wines are more complex in their flavor profile. They often have numerous layers that release flavors over time. Lower-quality wines lack this complexity, having just one or two main notes that may or may not linger.

With high-quality wines, these flavors may appear on the palate one after the other, giving you time to savor each one before the next appears.

Balance: Wines that have good balance will be of higher quality than ones where one component stands out above the rest.

The five components – acidity, tannins, sugar/sweetness, alcohol, and fruit – need to be balanced. For wines that require several years of aging to reach maturity, this gives them the time they need to reach optimal balance.

Higher-quality wines don’t necessarily need moderation in each component. What makes the difference is that the other components balance things out.

Typicity: Another indicator of wine quality comes from typicity, or how much the wine looks and tastes the way it should. For example, red Burgundy should have a certain appearance and taste, and it’s this combination that wine connoisseurs look for with each new vintage. An Australian Shiraz will also have a certain typicity as will a Barolo, a Rioja, or a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, among others. 

Intensity and Finish: The final indicators of both white and red wine quality are intensity and finish.

Specifically, in terms of appearance, the more concentrated and opaque the color, the higher the intensity should be. You will often see wines described as “pale, medium, or dark” and this is an indication of intensity. The darker the color, the more intense the wine should taste.

TIP: A critical aspect of keeping wine for long periods is the correct temperature and humidity. Check out this complete guide on how to control humidity in the wine fridge and the most common reason why your wine cooler is not cooling in this article.

How to Tell Good Wine by the Bottle

One of the best ways to tell a good wine by looking at the bottle is its alcohol level. Let’s look further into why alcohol is important: 

Ask yourself, “How much does the wine warm your throat?”

The average glass of wine contains around 11–13% alcohol. That said, wine ranges from as little as 5.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) to as much as around 20% ABV. We interpret alcohol using many different taste receptors, which is why it can taste bitter, sweet, spicy, and oily all at once. 

Your genetics actually plays a role in how bitter or sweet alcohol tastes.

Regardless, we can all sense alcohol towards the backs of our mouths in our throats as a warming sensation. Experts at wine tasting can guesstimate the alcohol level within 0.2%!

Here are some important alcohol characteristics – Wines with higher alcohol tend to taste bolder and more oily and wines with lower alcohol tend to taste lighter-bodied.

TIP: I wrote this great article on how to store wine with a cork that you will certainly learn from. To learn how to store wine without a cork, then this article will be your resource.

What Are the Characteristics of a Good Wine

By understanding the 5 basic characteristics of good wine, you’ll have a better chance of choosing great wines. The 5 characteristics of good wine are: Sweetness, Acidity, Tannin, Alcohol, and Body.

Let’s focus on the first two characteristics. Read below. 

Sweetness: Our perception of sweetness starts at the tip of our tongue, and the first impression of a wine is its level of sweetness.

To taste sweetness, focus your attention on the taste buds on the tip of your tongue. Are your taste buds tingling? This is an indicator of sweetness. Believe it or not, many dry wines need to be sweet in order to make them more full-bodied.

If you find a wine you like with a lot of residual sugar in the wine, you may enjoy a hint (or a lot) of sweetness in your wine.

Acidity: Acidity in food and drink tastes tart and zesty. Tasting acidity is also sometimes confused with alcohol.

Wines with higher acidity feel lighter-bodied because they come across as “spritzy.” If you prefer a wine that is richer, you enjoy less acidity.

TIP: If you want to check out the best refrigerator for wine storage, I recommend trying out Nutrichef (18 bottles) compressor wine refrigerator. You can find this refrigerator by clicking here (Amazon link).

Conclusion

Quality in wine is a huge topic. It’s not really surprising that countless books and essays exist on the subject. There is no general consensus among wine critics and connoisseurs on what exactly wine quality is and how we should measure it.

However, determining the quality of a wine is a fun topic and one that we tackled with gusto in the above article! Quality as a topic is complex and fascinating enough to deserve an article on its own.

Whether you like wine is really a matter of personal preference. There is no right or wrong answer. Also, in the realm of personal preferences, context is of paramount importance. A simple local wine might be perfect for a romantic dinner.

You love that wine in that particular context, which may be due to the company, the atmosphere, or a multitude of other factors. In fact, your adoration may have nothing to do with the inherent quality of that specific wine. 

In practice, the concept of wine quality is elusive. It’s not immune from subjectivity. It is not an easy task to separate absolute quality from your subjective taste, especially early in your wine journey. Learning for yourself is the only way to fully grasp wine!

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