Choosing quality wine might seem tricky – after all, how can one tell what’s in the bottle if it’s not been tasted? It’s easy if you find a wine reviewer that you tend to agree with, but not all of them have a palate that agrees with every imbiber. European reviewers tend to lean towards more balanced wines, with a solid acidic structure, lower alcohol and good varietal or regional characteristics, like this excellent Cotes du Rhone from Chapoutier.
American reviewers, such as Robert Parker or James Laube tend to enjoy over-extracted ‘fruit bombs’ that are not to everyone’s liking, such as this Cab Sauv from Stonestreet in California. You might wonder why these wines consistently receive such a high rating, but its roots are most definitely qualified and quantified, even if they may not be to your personal taste.
When we judge the quality of a wine, we look for balance of all the elements: fruit, alcohol and acidity/tannin, and not one component should stand out more than the rest. Even a hot-climate wine can have excellent balance though, like this Pinot Noir from La Crema in California. This is due in part to a gestalt approach to quality winemaking that starts in the vineyard. But can you determine the quality of a wine just from looking at the label? Probably not. And you certainly can’t depend on the price tag, either. Best bet is to do your homework. Find a reviewer whose opinions tend to align with yours, and check vintage charts when you can. A wine that is great in one vintage may not be so great in another. And then again, an excellent, boutique or small production producer, like Hartford Court (Calfornia) or Alvero Palacios (Spain) is almost always reliable, in that they are always focused on putting their best face forward.
For more information, check out the Baacco website.