Choose Wine Like an Expert: Judging Quality and Faults

Knowing what constitutes great wine is a skill one develops through time and experience tasting the product.

Though it helps to read a few good tips along the way.

With the wine market rapidly expanding in Asia (expected category growth from 2013 to 2017 is 22.84%), the ProWine ASIA 2016 trade fair recently talked to author Lisa Perrotti-Brown about how to discern quality wines.

Perrotti-Brown is the author of Taste Like A Wine Critic: A Guide to Understanding Wine Quality and a Master of Wine (MW). Here’s what she had to say:

Good Qualities

Some of the indicators of wine quality include its fruit ripeness (as manifested in the wine), intensity and concentration, balance, and length of finish.

For example, good quality wine should have ripe, approachable tannins and fully expressed flavor compounds as opposed to a dilute, overly sour and/or astringent / “hard” wines.

Quality wine is balanced, meaning all its components all exist in harmony and complement each other, so that no single aspect is obtrusive on the palate.


Wine should appear “seamless” in the mouth with no obvious “edges” such as too much acidity, oak or tannins.

The length of finish measures how long the wine’s taste lingers after it has been swallowed or spat out. Great wines have long, pleasant and often complex finishes, so that the flavors of the grapes or fruits that are in the wines may be tasted for a minute or more after swallowing.

Other factors include the wine’s ability to age, its regional typicality, value for money, the situation (e.g. with food) and its uniqueness.

How to Recognize a Wine Fault

According to Perrotti-Brown, the first indication in determining the quality of wine is if there is presence of any faults.

The more common ones include cork taint (TCA) and oxidation and can be detected when an aroma or flavor in the wine appears ‘off’ or just wrong. Cork taint occurs when 2,4,6 — Tricloranisole or TCA, generated by naturally-occurring fungi that often exist in the crevices of wood or cork — comes into contact with chlorine compounds present in pesticides, cleaning agents, wood treatments, etc.

When cork taint occurs, the wine will have a musty, moldy aroma. Controlling the source of TCA has proven extremely difficult and currently there are no solutions.

Another wine fault is the oxidation or reduction of the wine. This happens when wines are either exposed to too much or too little oxygen, respectively.

When oxidation occurs, this usually results in a breakdown of its attractive color. Whites go a dull brown/straw, rosés go brown/orange, reds become paler with an orange/brown rim. Chilling grapes and juice helps to slow oxidation.

Though interestingly, oxidation is being infused into the wine style of Vin Santo, Tokaji, Vin Jaune and Tawny Port. Reduction on the other hand, may result in the wine smelling like rotten eggs, garlic or onions or burnt tires. Swirling or decanting the wine can help to dissipate the “smelly” compounds.

Choosing a good bottle of wine is a matter of observation and evaluation of its quality. While building upon wine tasting experiences may help to quickly identify the wine’s qualities, nuances and ‘getting it’, it is still most important to enjoy the wine and in essence, comprehend the wine.

ProWine ASIA 2016 will be co-located with Food&HotelAsia2016 (FHA2016), Asia’s premier trade event for the food and hospitality industry. For further information on visiting or exhibiting at ProWine ASIA 2016, contact Messe Düsseldorf North America, 150 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 2920, Chicago, IL 60601. Telephone: (312) 781-5180; Fax: (312) 781-5188; E-mail:


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