What do you value in a wine?

This is a deliberately broad title which could lead in a thousand directions, but to give a bit of context: I’ve had covid recently and for a few days had an almost complete lack of sense of smell which was really quite alarming. It’s largely returned now though still perhaps a little dulled, but I’m hopeful it’ll be 100% soon. Obviously without my sense of smell (not to mention the fact I felt generally awful) it was impossible to enjoy wine. This was clearly extreme, but it made me consider what the fundamental things are which I value in a wine.

I think I have often had a tendency to associate intensity of nose with quality and have seen this as one of the most important aspects of a wine (may explain why I love riesling so much). The more I think about it though, the less sure I am about this as being a totally valid indicator of quality and what I personally value - I’ve certainly had some wines which were very intense but less than satisfying (looking at you NZ Sauvignon Blanc). ‘Balance’ is a word/characteristic which is thrown around a lot which I do think is important but which I also think is rather hard to define.

So, I suppose my question is: what do you personally value in a wine? What for you makes a wine great rather than good? And to clarify/pre-empt some challenges, I’m interested in things which are intrinsic to the wine itself - so I’m not talking about things like value for money, drank in an amazing/memorable setting, a great food match, etc.


For me the holy grail in red wine is pure raspberry fruit (with balancing hits of tannins and acidity). Of course I like a lot of other things, but this is what I seek. In a white wine… I look for the yeasty, sweet, brioche notes and the elusive quince.


This will sound really obvious, but I definitely enjoy more wines which are not one-dimensional. I like a yin-yang effect… so, for example, I would enjoy wine which has ripe fruit, but also a savoury/umami dimension much more than a wine with just one of these attributes. Or a wine that is rounded, even rich on the palate, but that has zesty, or herbal dimension too (for whites) and a sour fruit dimension as well (for reds).

I am also noticing that in wines with high ABV (both whites and reds), I need to have some fresher, zesty dimension too. So for example, I recently had a Swiss Petite Arvine at 14% ABV, which was full of verve and zest despite the ABV. Same with the Cairrane I drank on Saturday which was a whopping 15% ABV, but was surprisingly balanced and the fruit was not jammy or over-ripe in any way.

For me this is the ‘balance’ you refer to. But horses for courses, of course! :grinning:


I empathise. I had covid quite mildly early in the pandemic and I felt it took the best part of a year for my sense of smell fully to return (sorry!). In that time I got much less pleasure from wine.

So smell is definitely a big part of the enjoyment for me. I particularly love the savoury, leathery, animal smells and flavours of mature syrah and rioja. Then there is the freshness @Inbar mentions, and the silky textures of, for example, good pinot noir. ‘Balance’ to my mind is the way fruit, acid, alcohol and tannin come together on the palate, and in the ‘mouthfeel’ of the wine, an inelegant word but an expressive one, and the combination of savoury, fresh and silky is what I most enjoy.



Secondary, evolved tertiary flavours are what I value in wine & spirits.

Regretfully I do not have the pockets or patience to explore the wonders of aged Bordeaux, Burgundy or Barolo. However Cru Beaujolais is an early developer, so maybe 10 years will deliver all manner of hidden interest & depth, ditto Loire Cab Franc.

Savennières can be fabulous once the beeswax notes come to the fore. A couple of years back, TWS did an aged Muscadet which was superb. So it can be very rewarding to look out for these gems.

And then we get to vintage (10+ years) champagne, and 18+ y.o. whisky.


Yumminess. Seriously - does it taste nice in the moment?

I suppose, with the food I normally eat, I tend to buy sharp, light, funky wines. I don’t mind tannin, and the wines can be fruity or savoury. But sometimes I need a big red. On most occasions, to be honest, I don’t usually fret too much about balance and complexity. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate those qualities in the right circumstances


I tend to agree with this - so much depends on circumstances & mood. If I’m at a tasting, things like nose, complexity and precision will stand out. When I have a Sunday roast in front of me, I’m far more interested in the flavour profile and how it complements/stands up to the food.

Having said that the bottles I’ve generally found most memorable tend to be those with serious age and the complexity on the nose and/or palate that goes with it.


Halfway through the month, I would say on the evidence as presented thus far, the answer is ‘alcohol’. :smiley:

(And perhaps when I’m in a more cerebral mood, I may answer the question properly).


Subtlety, finesse, a sense of restrained power, multidimensionality. I’m less concerned with fruit per se than many.


Alcohol is a lot more important than most wine geeks would like to admit - not me of course :wink:


I sympathise with the loss of smell, however limited. A few years ago I lost my sense of smell totally after having a virus and it took a month or two to return properly. In that time, I just wasn’t bothered about drinking wine at all, so for me the first value I get is whether is has a great nose. Some great wines can be muted at times, but anything that is just wonderful to sniff at is what I really value in a wine.

After that it’s length of flavour and a changing profile as one tastes and swallows it. The aftertaste can be very important too. That tricky descriptor ‘mouthfeel’ is perhaps what covers the sensations, flavours and textures in a wine and these add up to being a ‘good’ wine, in my view, whatever the cost of it.