How to judge the quality of a wine?

Although there are rare cases where professionals disagree on the quality of a wine, they are generally unanimous on the rating of all wines. This is due to certain criteria to which they pay attention and which they evaluate during tastings and competitions. I will therefore present the 4 main criteria used and for the appreciation of wines.

1. Balance

The balance of the wine is made up of several characteristics which must harmonize on the palate: sugars, acidity, alcohol, aromatic intensity and tannins for red wines. The residual sugar can be balanced by the acidity, making the wine more refreshing. Alcohol may be less predominant if there is sufficient aromatic intensity. If you come across a wine that is too acidic on the palate, it means that the intensity of the aromas is not concentrated enough to counterbalance the acidity. A high concentration of tannins in red wine can also be disturbing during tasting. To take a concrete example, we have biodynamic wines in our store that have a 15% alcohol content but which surprisingly will not be felt at all in the mouth because their aromatic intensity is perfectly concentrated to maintain the aroma-alcohol balance.

2. Length

The finish is the last impression you have of a wine. The taste or flavor is what is left after you take a sip of the wine. The length of a wine is the length of the finish after swallowing it. In general, a wine with a short finish will be considered of lower quality than a wine with a greater length on the finish. Apart from the length, consider how the wine ends when you rate its quality. If you feel an unpleasant taste or a burning sensation in your mouth due to the presence of alcohol, it is because the wine tasted is not of good quality.

3. Identifiable characteristics | aromatic intensity of the wine

More intensity in a wine does not necessarily mean it will be of better quality. It is possible that a wine of light or medium intensity is of very good quality or even exceptional if the flavors are identifiable. For example, a red wine will be of good quality if during the tasting you can clearly identify in the category of red fruits different aromas that emerge such as red cherry, blackberry, strawberry etc.

4. complexity

Complexity is the most subjective criterion for describing and evaluating a wine. A complex wine has a variety of subtle aromas and flavors that can be detected with experience of tasting. Complex wines are not only fruity, but can also be floral, spicy, mineral or even marine thanks to salty final notes.


An exceptional wine has the capacity to meet these 4 criteria: balance, length, identification of aromas, and complexity. A very good wine will meet 3 of these criteria. This is the case, for example, with a well-balanced wine, with good complexity and easily identifiable aromas, but which will lack length on the finish. A good wine will fulfill 2 of the 4 criteria. An acceptable wine will only meet one criterion while a poor quality wine will not meet any of the criteria. The next time you drink a glass of wine, try to taste it taking into account its balance, length, identification of its aromas, and complexity. It is a very fun exercise that will help you make rapid progress in evaluating the quality of wines.

Séan Langlois.

WSET, Wines: Looking behind the label

Sean Langlois