Can You Tell the Quality of Wine by the Bottle?

Wine is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. Many people take a bottle of vino out of their wine fridge to enjoy with dinner or present it as a gift for a friend. However, with all of the options in the market, it can be challenging to identify which wines are of high quality and which ones are not. 

Unfortunately, you can’t tell if wine is of high quality or not by merely looking at the bottle. When it comes to the quality of wine, you need to consider many factors. And unless you’ve tried the wine before or know people who have, the bottle and label won’t always be a good indicator of quality.

This article will explore the different factors you need to consider when it comes to wine quality. I will also look at some of the myths about telling the quality of wine by its bottle. Let’s get started!

Common Misconceptions 

Let’s start by looking at some common misconceptions about wine.

Higher Price = Higher Quality

A lot of new, and even some long time wine drinkers believe that the higher the price of a wine bottle, the higher the quality of the wine. However, this is not always the case. Though quality plays a certain role in the pricing of wine, other factors impact the selling price of a given bottle of wine. 

The following factors impact the price of wine:

  • Brand or vineyard popularity
  • Production cost
  • Shipping cost

When a vineyard makes famous wine, they have the ability to raise the price. They know people will buy it, even if it costs a little more than the bottle on the shelf next to it. 

Labor and supply costs also have a significant impact on the price of wine. Wines produced in challenging growing conditions or secluded areas may be more expensive because of the cost of maintaining the vines and getting the bottled wine to the market. 

Screw Caps vs. Corks

Another common myth in identifying a wine’s quality via the bottle is whether the said bottle is sealed with a screw-on cap or a cork. Some people believe that wines sold with a screw cap are of lesser quality than corked wines. 

Traditionally, corks are, of course, what winemakers use to seal wine. They have been the preferred choice for winesellers for over 300 years. However, in recent years, some winemakers have begun using screw-on caps for their wine bottles. When this practice began, many wine lovers believed that this meant the wine was of lower quality than corked wine. 

But this is not the case. In fact, a wine that is sealed with a screw-on cap is less likely to get exposed to oxygen. This prevents the wine from having oxidation issues, which can cause it to lose its most essential properties like flavor and color. 

Bottles sealed with corks are also at risk of cork taint. This occurs when the cork pieces fall into the wine, making it smell and taste musty. Many winemakers are moving to screw-on caps to prevent these issues while also providing buyers with easy access to their delicious beverages. 

Factors That Determine Wine Quality

A handful of factors are used to determine whether a wine is of high quality or not. These include:

  • Balance 
  • Depth 
  • Smell
  • Finish 
  • Typicity 

Let’s examine each factor a little further.

Balance

The balance of a wine refers to the flavors that may or may not stand out. If a wine’s alcohol, tannin, fruit, or acidity stands out, then the wine is not considered to be in balance. A balanced wine is deemed to be fresh-tasting and shouldn’t have one flavor that stands out. 

A wine without one aspect or flavor standing out is considered to be one-dimensional and flat. Even though balance is a subjective attribute of wine, wines that are not balanced will never be regarded as good. 

Depth

The first step in determining a wine’s depth is to swirl the wine in a glass and take a sip. If you can taste multiple flavors, then the wine is considered to have great depth. Wine with depth has the ability to change in taste as you sip on it with a meal.

Most avid wine drinkers consider wine that has depth to be of high quality. If a wine has only one flavor or the flavor remains precisely the same, even when paired with food, then it is considered to lack depth.  

Smell

Your nose can help you begin to determine the quality of wine reasonably quickly, even if it’s not the only indicator. How a wine smells will tell you if you should expect it to be fruit-flavored, floral, or even woodsy. 

If a wine smells off or like something other than wine, there’s reason to believe that you may not enjoy the wine. Though there are times when your sense of smell can deceive you, it’s still a good first test of a wine’s quality. 

Finish

The length and finish of a particular wine is the final indicator of the wine’s quality. If the wine’s flavors reach the back of your palate and leave a flavorful aftertaste, then the length and finish are considered to be decent. 

Essentially, if a wine’s flavor is fleeting and you can’t taste its flavors anymore after a second, its finish is ‘short,’ and the quality is considered to be lower. A wine with a good finish will linger for three or four seconds. As such, you should be able to taste all the flavors the wine offers.

Conclusion

Sipping on wine is a lot of fun. However, finding a high-quality wine takes more than just a look over the bottle and label. Of course, tastes can differ from person to person, and quality is typically subjective. 

The best way to determine the quality of a wine is to open the bottle and try it yourself. Be sure to make a note of the wine’s aroma, depth, finish, balance, and taste. These factors combined are what truly determine if a wine is of high quality or not. Now, equipped with this knowledge, go forth and enjoy yourself some wine!

By Michael

Chief mixologist and cocktail enthusiast at Swizzle Club.