What makes a wine great?

"You have only so many bottles in your life, never drink a bad one."
- Len Evans


The defining element of a great wine is its ability to provide enjoyment. After all, we drink and appreciate wine for the joy and pleasure it brings. However, we are all influenced by our personal preferences and experiences, so not surprisingly, we don’t all enjoy the same wines. The differentiation of a great wine with a good wine becomes a very subjective matter, and we often find a commonly acknowledged ‘great wine’ tastes merely ‘good’ to us or vice versa. Again, as we always do when facing the multifaceted nature of wine world, we should bear in mind wine appreciation is very personal, so to be honest with yourself as to what you enjoy the most.

Good and great wines share many similarities. Firstly, they are all good in quality and without faults. Both are well-balanced with all components working in harmony to give us enjoyable experiences. They are generally good in value as well – this, however, can be quite debatable as we know the rarity, reputation and media acclaim can do crazy things to a wine’s price! If a wine tastes enjoyable but without much complexity, we normally consider it a good wine but not a great wine. There is nothing wrong with a simple wine, but the ability of a wine to reveal layers and layers of different characteristics gives it a unique personality. The multiplicity of a wine makes it interesting, and we are much more likely to be impressed and enchanted. Length and finish are other signs of a great wine – the ability of a wine to go all the distance on our palate and to have a pleasant lingering aftertaste is what makes a wine both charming and irresistible!

A great wine not only needs to meet the expectations of the taster but at the same time over-deliver. It is often the element of surprise at the quality of a wine that enhances our whole experience. We can have many bottles of good wine in our lives and enjoying them happily, but it is the great wines that find a home in our memory and last.