what makes a wine good

While walking home today, after writing yet another exam, with aimee one of my roommates, I said I should write my blog about good wine. She thought that was a great idea, and even offered to write it. I expect it would have been in French or German so I said I could manage it. lol, to keep it simpler rather than a dissertation. .. *nods proudly* cause she has written quite a few of those.. pssst she is very  smart and will have her first doctorate soon… points out I said first..  

Okies, enough background, so I asked her how do you know when it is a good wine.

She has been inflicting her wine knowledge on us for a while and we have to suffer through having a fairly extensive wine cellar in our house. So she matches up a wine with our meal and is always right.. grumbles and giggles, is so hard but because she is so cute we put up with it.

She said there are a lot of ways to judge a wine, and it depends on how deep or thorough an answer you wish, are you judging a wine for the dinner table, or trying to impress “wine snobs” *tries to imitate her face when she said that… giggles*, or working in a winery and looking to create a vintage that will make the world tremble with excitement?

Ummm, the first one I said nodding. Don’t think I want the world trembling with excitement just yet.

So here we go, from information garnered from my walk.


Are you still with me?

The first thing you do is open the wine and sniff the cork. (I knew this), Why? Because most wine bottles are sealed with corks.. and corks often will make a bottle of wine bad. This is a wine that is contaminated with .. uhm… TCA, from either the  cork or the barrel. A lot of wine is effected this way but most people can’t taste it and don’t return it. It has a musty taste or aroma. They call this a “corked wine”  *nods knowing I am impressing you now.” and it is a terrible taste.

Ok, so you probably can’t tell if the wine is corked, so we will move on….

Back to the aroma.. nods.. you take a sniff before you chug..  I mean sip the wine… you are suppose to use the correct wine glass as the shape  of the glass will enhance the smell and place the wine on your tongue in the place best suited for that type of wine, just thought I would toss that in now.

But you stick your nose in the glass and take a good sniff. Now some really good wines may not smell great, so this isn’t an end all.. gently swirl the glass to let it breath and then sniff, you are just looking for pleasant smells.  Because just like eating a good meal, the fragrant aroma drifting up from the plate enhances your taste sensation, a wine with a nice bouquet will be enjoyed more.

Now, I often see people swirling a glass of wine and looking at the side..  so I asked if that is a good test..

She giggled

It means there is alcohol in the wine she said. But  wine snobs like to swirl and look at them.  “oh it has good legs” is often the comment.

Well she said to be fair, it is worth doing, because it is pretty. When you swirl the wine and let it settle you will see lines and arches form on the side of the glass. This is called the legs, aimee said it is tears. The  French refer to it as tears rather than legs. aimee says the grapes are giving you their last tears so you will find happiness. 

Back to the testing.

Balance. There are four things to look for sweetness, acidity, tannin and alcoholic content. This varies with individual palates, but a good wine is balanced. Too much acidity and the wine is sharp, too little and it is flabby. The tannin give the wine its pucker, aged in oak will increase this. You don’t want the tannin overpowering the grape, it isn’t tea it is a fruit drink and the sweetness needs to be in balance with the tannin’s. The alcohol level is usually around 11 to 13 percent, if it is too high you get a burning feeling on your tongue.  Blech

Depth is the tastes you discover in the wine, the complexity of it. A nice wine gives you many tastes that come in waves, and are at times repeated.

Now when the wine has passed your lips, how long do you enjoy the taste.. this is the length, a good wine has a long length.

You also look for faults, these are things that have damaged the wine. Oxidation, the wine has been open to long or was exposed to air during the process. It is not a nice taste and the colour is usually off, reds become brownish and whites darken.

oh and don’t keep an open bottle of wine around for a long time. It will oxidize, after the second day it will start to fade quickly, it will end up tasting like cardboard, blech’s again. is terrible taste.

Sulfur is a bad sign. There are a few causes for it apparently but the wine is not worth drinking if you detect that smell.

aimee said to open your wine and let it breath, now that doesn’t mean take out the cork and wait, because there is not much breathing going on in that tiny opening at the top of the bottle. Decant the wine carefully into … waits…. a decanter, the wine will improve so much with this process before you enjoy it. She said to pour it carefully down the side of the decanter and wait an hour or more for a red. 

Gawds, there is a lot to it isn’t there?

So not to overwhelm you, as there is a lot more.. I asked if there was a shortcut to discovering a good bottle of wine.. she said yes.



She leaned in close to my ear so she could whisper the secret.. pssst.. a good bottle of wine, is one shared with someone special.

*Grins*, we had a good bottle of wine tonight.



About sensuousamberville

I am a Practitioner, teacher and student. I think we should always be students, we should keep our minds open, to continue to learn. :-) Now a mother of two little ones.

3 responses »

  1. every bottle of wine we share has been “a good bottle”, and grins softly, because I know someone that I am very proud of, with all of her degrees… and knows there are a few more coming.

  2. I’ll take a bottle of good wine and one of those degrees please!


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