On one level “judging wine” is distasteful. A lodestone of my approach to wine is drink what you enjoy and ignore supercilious pronunciamentos from wine snobs.
Still, swill is swill. I appreciate readers enjoy learning about wine and welcome invitations to discover something new and delicious. It is swell to avoid swill, prudent to pass on plonk, and percipient to pick palate pleasuring pours.
So, “judging wine” is necessary part of my assignment to entertain and inform you. There are four classic elements.
• Color. Wine can be beautiful. Rosé in particular can enrapture your eyes. Color also can signal something is wrong—brown in white wine means it is light-struck. It will not harm you, but it will not taste good. Brown in red wine can mean it is past its expiration date, or maybe not, give it a taste to verify.
• Smell. Aromatics can suggest flaws. Wet dog—cork taint. Volatile acidity—vinegar. Manure—brettanomyces (brett). Of course, this being wine, wet dog and vinegar are clear negatives, but brett/manure can be good if there is not too much of it, and if it is quality Burgundy, it will go away with air and then be complex and delicious. Past the problems, aroma is the single most important element of your enjoyment of wine. Your taste of wine is your palate confirming your nose. Sniff, sip, savor.
• Taste. Often called “on the palate.” This confirms or refutes what the nose promised. It also determines acidity, tannins, alcohol, body, intensity. It is the gateway to the labyrinthine maze of wine appreciation. Bottom line: did this wine taste good? Each person has an absolute right to make this decision for his/her self.
• Conclusion. Would I recommend someone spend money on this? Readers know my indisposition to wine scores. My evaluations attempt to convey what the wine conveyed to me, and the story behind the wine and the makers. I think backstory is a rich and meaningful element of the wine experience. I do not do snark reviews. If I did not enjoy the wine, I do not write about it. If I include in tasting notes or in an online review, then I believe at least some of you will find the wine pleasurable and invite you to see if you agree.
Last round: After a couple of glasses of wine, what did one eye say to the other eye? “Between you and me, something smells.”