Judging A Wine

These very interesting articles have  appeared on the Telegraph, WSJ, The Guardian etc...




How can you judge whether a wine is a great wine or not?
Well, it's a tricky question. A lot is quite personal.

I hope in my HOME PAGE I have well explained my criteria, that I report also here below.

But one thing is certain: judging a wine requires extreme humbleness. You need just to listen how the nature is expressing herself trough the work of another man. Not talking, just listening.
And the nature changes its expression in the glass minute after minute, as it does in the bottle years after years.
You are going to describe a magmatic, evolving stuff, not a stoney, fixed one. Wine does not like to be admired, does not like to be captured. It's there to dance and to invite you to his Dervish spinning dance. 
If you are able to listen and to be transported, then you will get the pleasure to be introduced by him in his kaleidoscopic world. Otherwise, if you want to tell the wine how it should taste, then just forget it.

So, provided this preface, it comes naturally that every note I put down it's a PERSONAL note that tries to describe a wine in an honest way (accordingly to the personal criteria below) and at a particular instant.  Even if I re-evaluate the wine in few hours I'll change my notes. 
Wine notes are indeed useful NOT to describe a wine once forever, but to see how a wine evolves with time (with the caveat to keep in mind that your taste will change with time).

So here are the 5 criteria I use to judge a wine: 

  1. Integrity (with respect to grape variety and terroir*): How much of the original fruit, soil and climate characteristics can you find in the final wine. Are the original characteristics there, or are they stripped off by inaccurate/aggressive wine-making or spoiled by unwanted bacteria/yeasts?
  2. Balance/Harmony: How the Acid/Tannic components are counterbalanced by the Sweet/Alcoholic components. How the external components (e.g. oak tannins) integrate with the fruit extracts.
  3. Complexity: is the wine offering just a uni-dimensional sensation (e.g. fruit forward) or layers after layers of different flavors are coming one after another?
  4. Persistence (length): how long the goods delivered by the wine last in your mouth after your swallow/spit it? Just few seconds or a minute or more?
  5. Hedonism: The hedonic evaluation is absolutely personal, but I believe it's fundamental to be included in determining the final score. It is an indication of which level of pleasure the wine delivers to you. At the end of day, wine is made for giving pleasure not just for being a fluid to be analyzed by a robot. Even a wine that is technically faulty can deliver the highest level of pleasure to some palate or being just disgusting for others.  
The criterion no.1 requires quite a bit of knowledge in order to judge if a region is performing "authentically" with respect his climate/soil/typical grown grapes etc.
The criterion no.2 it's easy. Even a child can say a Cola drink is balanced because the bracing refreshing acidity of phosphoric acid is counter-balanced by tons of sugar.
The criterion no.3 requires exercise in order to training your nose and palate to smell and taste as many layers as possible. Sometime it's enough keep smelling the wine: your nose get saturated and "insensitive"to the primary aromas and start to detect the secondary ones etc. (Just imagine to keep staying in a smelly room: your nose get adapted, your receptors saturate with the main odors and you can start to small the minor ones).
The criterion no.4 is again easy: you swallow or spit the wine and the wine's flavors keep staying on your palate. How long?  The exact answer (in seconds) is personal, but a quantitative estimation on which everyone can agree it's possible (short, medium or long?).
The criterion no.5 is absolutely personal, and for me is important like the others. A wine can be not a good  representative of a certain grape or a certain land or can even be faulty or unmbalanced, but IF IT GIVES YOU PLEASURE then that's a great wine for you. That's not a secret: a wine that gives pleasure has reached his final and most important aim. Full stop.

Hope this makes sense!


* A page will be posted about the fuzzy concept of "Terroir"


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