Wine quality seems a highly arbitrary thing, at least until you remember that almost all the most experienced wine tasters in the world agree about at least 75% or 80% of the contents on a list of the best 20 wines in the world. The elements of quality that these experts identify are easy for even the most novice wine drinker to enjoy in a bottle of Australian wine, and with a little bit of practice and experience, one can learn to identify the nature of quality elements. So done worry if you have an event involving wine for charity coming up because you can overcome any ignorance quickly.
The basic elements of quality are simple to identify. You want to look for flavor complexity, how long the flavor and feel of the wine linger on the palate, it’s balance and harmony, and typicity. These elements of quality imply that you can’t identify the quality of wine without tasting it. There are scientific, chemical measures that equate to many of these characteristics, and many people also discuss aspects of the grapes and growing process when considering the quality of a bottle, but when you get down to it, the quality is, or isn’t, in the bottle and the glass.
The easiest things to discuss are the flavor complexity, harmony, and length of finish. Even if you’re not an experienced wine taster, the first time you whiff a glass’s bouquet and then swish a mouthful around, you will begin to think about what flavors and sensations it evokes. If it leaves you guessing and unable to identify certain elements at the same time as the top layers of flavor have you riveted, you can safely say the complexity is appealing to you. If you continue to have a smooth, velvety feeling in your mouth after a heavy red or a light, crisp feeling after a white, then you’re experiencing good finish.
If it feels like the level of acidity, tannin, alcohol, and sweetness compliment and amplifies each other, the glass is relatively harmonious. Obviously the better you get at noticing nuance and learning more about the context of wine, the better you will become at discussing quality, but even a few glasses talking with other drinkers about these basic elements will go a long way to getting you ready to hold your own in average wine drinker company.
Typicity also thought of as a reflection of terror is slightly more difficult. You can’t identify and talk about these elements of wine unless you know what characteristics are typical of that wine grape, growing region, and perhaps vintage. This aspect of quality requires explicit experience. But in the company of more experienced wine tasters, you can discuss the elements of the wine you do recognize and learn about whether they do or don’t reflect its typicity.
So even if you don’t know anything about Australian wines from a specific region, noticing an undertone of fresh cut grass and berries will certainly allow you to participate in a discussion as long as another wine drinker relates the notes you’ve highlighted to common information about the vintner. And with practice and more such conversations, you will quickly find yourself very comfortable talking about wine quality.