Whether visiting wineries, trying a new wine at a restaurant, or opening a bottle at home, it helps to have a general idea of what to look for as far as color, aromas, and flavors are concerned. Once we’ve educated ourselves a bit about what to expect from different types of wines, and what we personally like to drink, it’s common to turn to writers for wine reviews on unfamiliar wines and vintages.
Essentially, what a wine writer is trying to do is isolate different sensory experiences: is the color correct for the wine’s category and its stage of evolution? What types of aromas and flavors are found: red or dark fruits, flowers, herbs, animal qualities, etc., and are they appealing? What do these smells and tastes say about the maturity of the fruit and its level of ripeness? Ripe? Overripe? Green? What is the texture or mouth-feel of the wine: light- or full-bodied, silky, velvety, round, chewy? What about the level of acidity, and the tannins? Are these structuring elements balanced by the impression of fruit, or is the tongue simply overwhelmed by heat or astringency?
Especially important, how does the wine finish? Does it linger on the palate (this is perhaps the single best indicator of wine quality) or is it clipped, curtailed? (A wine-novice friend of mine said it best: “This wine just stops!”). Writers then attempt to bundle all that information into a short coherent paragraph in the hope that it will convey a clear idea of what that wine will deliver.
At that point, the ball’s in your court: does it sound like something you’d like to drink? If so, buy it, try it, and perhaps even write down your own impressions!