How can you tell if the wine is good quality

Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash

Everyone wants to drink good, quality wine. No matter the price. But how can you tell that the wine is of good quality?

There is an approach by which you can tell if the wine is of good quality. And I mean good quality not just if you like it or not.

I learn this method in WSET level 2 course. There are 4 significant steps that you have to go through — appearance, nose, palate, conclusion. I’m not going to describe them in detail here, just the basics.

Appearance

Take a look at the clarity, intensity and colour of the wine.

Nose

Smell the wine, before and after swirling it in a glass. How intense is the aroma? Is it strong or light? What are aroma characteristics that you can smell (fruit, flowers, spices, vegetable, oak aromas, other)?

Palate

Do you taste the sweetness of the wine? Is it acidic, full-bodied? Do you feel tannins (red wine only)? How long does the flavour last after it left your mouth? Finally, how does it taste, what flavours can you detect?

Conclusion

Take all the previous steps and combine them. Was the wine well balanced? Did you notice more things every time you taste it? How was the intensity of the wine? All these things matter in deciding if the wine is of good quality.

But what if you want to know before you buy/taste the wine? You can tell a lot about the wine from its label.

Europe union and PDO vs PGI

There are two main categories of quality indication, inside Europe union.

PDO – Protected designation of origin.

Generally speaking, PDOs are smaller areas with more tightly defined regulation.

PDOs on wine label for wines from:

France:

  • Appellation D’origine Contrôlée (AOC)

Italy:

  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and
  • Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG)

Spain:

  • Denominacion de Origen (DO)
  • Denominacion de Origen Calificada (DOCa)

Germany:

  • Prädikatswein – Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP)
  • Qualitätswein

If you see a bottle with that has one of these PDOs on the label you have pretty good bet the wine is good quality.

PGI – a Protected geographical indication

PGIs rules are not as strict as PDOs, which could mean lower quality, but it could also mean more freedom for winemakers to use non-traditional grapes.

France:

  • Vin de Pays(VdP)
  • Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP)

Italy:

  • Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT)

Spain:

  • Vino de la tierra (VdlT)

Germany:

  • Landwein

What if the wine is not from the EU country?

Unfortunately, not every country has the same rules about winemaking or how it’s determining its quality. Generally speaking, if the wine has a winemakers name on it, it’s more likely to be from controlled produce rather then from grapes that are from all over the place. If you want to dig deeper into the rules, check the Wikipedia resource at the end of this post.

Bonus:

The price might be the indicator of quality, but it’s not a rule.

Here is a list of things that goes into the price of wine:

  • manual labour – to care for the wine during the year
  • cost of the land
  • cost of machinery – to harvest if not harvested by hand
  • yearly yield – if the return was low the wine will be more expensive because it’s less of it
  • oak ageing – oak is expensive, end if you age the wine it takes years before winemaker sells the wine
  • storage – even if you don’t age the wine for years, you need lots of space to store the wine before you can bottle it.
  • bottling – the cost of wine bottles, cost of machinery that does the bottling, price of corks/screw tops
  • transportation fees
  • currency exchange
  • wine merchant fees
  • offer/demand ratio that affects the price too

There are ways how you can make the wine cheaper that might or might now affect the wine quality. Rent the machinery that you use. Use alternatives to oak barrel ageing like (oak chips, oak shavings). Have a large production so the cost will dilute by the amount that you produce.

Resources

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