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What is a Good Wine?

by Arthur Tan, BBA 1992

Figure 1: Chateau Lafite Rothschild

Some explanations:

A good wine should be from a ‘pedigree’ winery, presumably from an old-world place like Bordeaux or Burgundy.. haha.. this statement is meant to be a joke!! For most, what constitutes a good wine is one which does not taste too acidic, goes easy on your taste buds, and makes you want to imbibe more and more of it.

Many people like to ask me FAQs like, “How do you tell this is a cheap wine or an expensive one”.

To explain simply, you just need to remember the following pointers. If a wine smells of grapes, tastes like grapes, and the taste goes away immediately after swallowing is most likely not an expensive wine. Conversely, a wine that is (usually) steeper in price will have aromas and tastes evoking many impressions in our senses, e.g. flowers, fruits, tar, chocolate, coffee, leather, cat’s pee (yes, cat’s urine).

What do ‘Professionals’ look for?

These are the three standard things we look at:

Look. This is the easy part. You only need to look at the shade of the color. For white wines, it would probably be ranging from straw white to dark gold. And for red wines, from medium red, purplish-red to dark red, and sometimes dark red with brown tinge. Among the three, the look is comparatively the least likely to determine whether the bottle you are drinking from is good stuff or not. It only hints to you on the age of the wine, full-bodied or not, and confirmation of specific grape varietals.

Nose. Our nose, which gathers the aroma and sends the information to our brain, is certainly capable of separating the different smells evoked from the bottle.

But that is only possible when we put some effort and focus into smelling it. Most of us tend to lump our answer as “it smells fruity, it is great, I like the aroma, but I do not know how to tell you”. But when we slowly nudge our friends to smell further, many of us (unsurprisingly) can discern aromas like lychees, pineapples, etc., from white wines. It is the same for reds.

Palate. This is the tasting part. The one most of us enjoyed because as we imbibe the wine and its alcohol, the intoxication and taste make us happy (and high). When the taste is complex with different flavors, the enjoyment is like partaking of a cuisine that is bursting with many flavors. And when the wine fluid goes down, good wine is one whose taste lingers on in the mouth for quite a while. From this, we would think that among the three, the palate part is the most important. Actually ...... Science has shown us that the NOSE GREATLY influences our taste and the information we send to our brain. 

Good Wine and Company

Figure 2: Credit to Scott Warman

It is great to know the above information as you travel along the road of wine discovery. But one thing I always emphasize is that liking a particular wine is a very personal thing. All of us will have our preferences. And if you enjoy a particular $25 wine, just drink it. Never mind what other people may say. And when drinking in the good company of friends and family, it certainly helps in bonding and sharing. When this happens, your $25 wine is worth many times more!

Credits :
Figure 2 : From Scott Warman

Copyright Wine Tatler LLP 2021. All Rights Reserved


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