Know What A Good Bottle Of Wine Is, And Who Said So?
A good bottle of wine. Is there such thing as an objective quality rating? What is quality? What makes a good bottle of wine? Today, in most cases, quality is defined by the media scores a wine receives from Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator review. The system is not perfect but it’s easy for consumers to use in determining what they believe will be a good bottle of wine and, therefore, good for wine consumption.
What we believe a good bottle of wine is, is learned through prior experiences. The wine regions we’ve visited and the wines we’ve tasted shape our opinions and beliefs as to what a good bottle of wine is. Knowledge is stored in memory and retrieved to interpret future sensory experiences. It’s impossible to imagine tasting a bottle of wine without the use of memory; we are what we remember! Two tasters will inevitably have different information stored in memory and will often interpret the same bottle of wine differently.
When we describe a good bottle of wine or one less so, how much are we relying on our sense of taste and smell and how much on what we see? A fascinating wine study called “The Color of Odors” has shown the impact color has in determining the adjectives we use to describe wines. A panel of 54 enology students at the
When describing a good bottle of wine, smell and emotion are entwined with experience. Each of us may perceive the same odor with far different feelings, an important source of variation between tasters. If you grew up on a farm, you may find the smell of an earthy wine pleasant, and judge it to be a good bottle of wine, while someone else may find it objectionable or not even notice it.
When people judge whether a particular bottle of wine is good, cues such as ratings, type of closure (cork, screw cap), vintage, price and grape variety will recall information stored in memory and interact with the flavor of the wine. The brain grabs the stored information, combines it with the wine’s sensory attributes and processes the whole thing as a unit. A mediocre bottle of wine can be perceived as good or “interesting” if handled by a prestigious importer.
Experienced tasters apply different criteria to judging a good bottle of wine than novices, based on expectations as to what state that wine should be in at that particular time. While novices judge a wine based on how it tastes at that moment, experts consider factors such as aging potential and whether the wine accurately reflects its growing region and grape variety. The Barolo expert will taste a young, traditionally made Barolo from a good producer and, swooning over the aromas of tar, earth and tannins, will imagine how beautiful the wine will be in 10 years. The novice will taste a harsh, tart, tannic red wine.
When trying to determine a good bottle of wine, users of scores should bear in mind that numerical scores are not quality ratings, but likeability or preference ratings. Based on their unique prior experiences, critics are converting their feelings about a wine into a number. A bottle of wine with a microbial nose such as Domaine Tempier may receive 80 points by a reviewer who does not like non-fruit aromas. The same character may be a positive to another critic who may give it 90 points. In Chardonnay, sulfide (rotten egg) character will make one critic swoon because it evokes memories of white