Wine Stuff To Know: The Good, The Quality and The Price of wine.
And how to make sense of it all.
The number 1 question I get asked when I teach wine classes is this: ”What is a good wine?”
It has long been a question I wish I had an easy answer. How do you account for quality and price? After giving it a great deal of though, I found that quick answer.
Question: What is a good wine?
Answer: Whatever wine you enjoy drinking.
Yes. Really. It is that simple. If you enjoy a wine, then for you - it is a good wine. Drink away. Quality and price of wines are more defined, and we will get to that. But good is what you enjoy. Try not to be discouraged by others who do not feel the same way. Everyone has different preferences, plus we know the world of wine can be a bit snobbish. We can all play a hand in dispelling those snobbish ways by being more open to all the wines of the world and letting people enjoy what they enjoy.
The only time you should ever let anyone tell you a wine isn’t good is: if the wine has gone bad (like most food and beverage products, wine can spoil). Smells of wet newspaper, nail polish remover and stringent vinegar can indicate a wine has spoiled; in which case you should not drink it. Though I highly encourage smelling it so you can learn what a spoiled wine smells like for future reference.
Now. It gets a bit more complicated. But I encourage you to read on as the next set of information about “quality“ wine is important. Quality wine does have criteria to be considered of good or poor quality. Without getting too detailed or overly complicated, some of those criteria include:
Vineyard practices and grape growing techniques. Strong attention to detail in the vineyard helps to grow great grapes which helps to make higher quality wines. (Crummy strawberries would make for a subpar smoothie or frozen margarita right? Same idea).
Depth and complexities of flavors
Aging practices (often help develop those deep and complex flavors)
Balance (of tannins, alcohol, body and acidity). An example of a poorly balanced wine is one that is so high in alcohol it just burns off the flavors and doesn’t give you a welcoming mouth-feel when drinking.
When a wine professional, say a journalist for a wine magazine, is tasting a wine to determine quality, the above list are some of the factors they consider. Personal preference should not come into play. Those that are trained in wine tasting know how to try a wine without letting their biases get in the way. For example, I don’t care for Chardonnay. But I can taste a Chardonnay and objectively tell whether it is of sound quality. Quality scales vary, but you are likly to see something such as: poor, acceptable, good, great.
Then there is prices of wine. Because many of the techniques used to create better quality wines are pricey, that is the why many quality wines are more expensive. (Remember, that doesn’t mean they will be good - they are only good if you like them!) Again, without getting too detailed or complicated, here are some of the basic considerations for the costs of wine:
Use of oak barrels. New barrels are expensive but can create a better wine outcome. Sometimes cheaper oak chips are used to get the oak effect at a cheaper price.
Aging wine. This ties up inventory and warehouse space. If they are aged in oak barrels, it also ties up those barrels. Aging the wine can increase the depth of flavors and complexity of the wine.
Location. Some places are more expensive to buy land for a vineyard because they have excellent growing conditions for the grapes.
Hand picking or mechanical harvesting. Hand picking takes longer and is more expensive, but they are trained to pick only the best grapes and leave the remainder to keep ripening.
This is a lot of information if you are new to wine. Though the good versus quality versus price knowledge can make a huge impact to enjoyment of wine. And enjoyment of wine is what I am going for here! If you have any other questions - please reach out! Also, stay tuned for a future blog post about wine knowledge resources.
~Cheers & Ears