The best way to determine if a wine is to your liking is to taste it. However, that is not always a practical solution given that your local wine merchant probably doesn’t offer sampling bottles similar to the way cosmetic counters allow shoppers to lather on skin cream. However, if you have the opportunity to visit a winery they will often offer a selection of their wines for sampling and purchase.
According to the experts, wine tasting is an art in itself that should be conducted in a very particular fashion. This will be the subject of a future post.
Given that tasting wine is not often a viable solution we often rely on the opinions of those who have tasted the wine or the vintner who made the particular wine. Vintners do not rate their wine but they will provide insight as to how the wine was produce, the type and percentage of the various varietals used, etc.
It is important to keep in mind that wine evaluations are very subjective. There is nothing scientific about them and there are a number of studies and articles backing that claim. Complicating matters further is the fact that there is no standard method or scale for reviewing wines. Each expert has their way of ranking wines, some score out of a maximum 100 points, while others rank from 1 to 5, some rank based on 1 to 4 stars, while still others rank based on 1 to 3 wine glasses. The reader is left to their own interpretation of how a 91 compares to 3.5 stars or 4 out of 5, or 2 out of 3 wine glasses.
In situations where a wine is reviewed by individuals using the same scoring system, the results may be vastly different. Reviewers conducting a blind taste test provided a wide range of ratings for the same wine.
What I often find more informative than the rating number is the accompanying comments. At least then you can read what they think and draw your own conclusions about whether this may be an enjoyable wine for you.
My own experiences suggest that enjoyment of a wine can vary depending on a variety of external factors, such as your mood, stresses and other variables. On several occasions I have noticed that I have had two identical bottles of wine on different days where I found I enjoyed one immensely and found the second rather blah.
There are other factors that can influence your perception of a bottle of wine. These include food pairings, which can physically influence your taste buds, thus providing a different taste sensation depending on the type of food being eaten alongside of the wine.
Studies have also been conducted indicating how people’s appreciation for a wine can be influenced by distractions such as background music, the colour of the wine (darker wines are perceived to taste better), and the price of the wine (more expensive wines are expected to be of better quality). Keep in mind these are perceptions, not necessarily realities.
One final sobering thought. As we continue to age our tastes and preferences change. A wine that you find enjoyable today may not be so 10 years from now. The opposite is also true. This may be the result of our taste buds becoming less sensitive as we grow older. Also some people become more sensitive to wines containing higher levels of acid or tannin. Whatever the reason, I recommend keeping an open mind and occasionally make a point of trying wines you may not have been wowed by in the past. You never know what you might discover.
So how do you find a good wine? I don’t believe there is a sure fire way. My recommendation is to keep a mental or written note of your wine explorations and when you come across a wine you like make a note so you can look for it again.