What does the term "quality wine" really mean? What ranks one bottle higher than another and possibly increases it's price?

Let's start with a given acceptance: Good wine is the one we just like and enjoy drinking, whether it is cheap or costs a small fortune. But, where we usually all agree, is when we blindly put two glasses next to each other and compare their characteristics. Nine out of ten times the result will be in favor of the one which, objectively, meets certain conditions.

Let's see them together:

Concentration: We also refer to the nose but, mainly, the palate. An intense wine, with "dense" taste characteristics, is a quality wine that will surely stand out. Do not confuse intense with elegant. There are very elegant wines, less extroverted stylistically, but which have high aromatic intensities, both in the nose and on the palate.

Complexity: We smell a (say white) wine and we can hardly distinguish a light lemon. We proceed to a second and suddenly can see at least three distinct aromas. We put a third, "legendary" bottle, next to it and bang! For hours the wine is constantly giving new things. One can probably note more than ten distinct aromas, which are constantly changing and evolving. So, yeah. This is a very high quality wine!

Aftertaste: An infallible quality criterion, directly related to the vine. It is the long taste after we swallow the wine. In other words, the end of the wine, how long it will remind us its presence and will not disappear in a flash as soon as it goes down. Try a premium Santorini from arid vines, with a yield of only 1000kg per acre and then put it next to a bag-in-box wine that typically comes from intensively irrigated vines that give 8000 kg per acre. The difference is chaotic!

Vineyard: We have already talked about the acreage yields. The viticulturist has more methods in his quiver to increase the quality of the final product, such as, quite indicatively, the green harvest, specially studied prunings and much more. Techniques that cost money, but correspondingly provide more quality in the glass.

Old Vines: And, to take the vineyard one step further, you may have noticed references to "old vines" or "veilles vignes" on a label. This is because, usually, a thirty-year-old vineyard whose root system will have reached tens of meters deep in the soil, has more to offer in terms of the complexity of the final wine.

Reputation: Yes. It matters. It also appears timidly in the Greek vineyard, where we are hardly in the second and rarely in the third generation of producers. But look at what is happening in Bordeaux or Burgundy. Hundreds of years of experience, the distillate of which systematically ends up in the bottle. It is this very experience that the producer will be paid for. Right or wrong, the decision is yours!

Consistency: Directly related to the previous one, it involves the historically consistent quality behavior of a wine over the years, even if it has been mediated by a bad vintage. A famous wine provides "safety" to the wine lover, creates the feeling that one knows what to expect. There is a "guarantee" for the money spent. Even if this is a rare thing for the Greek vineyard, with a small statistical appearance of bad vintages, it is very important in cool climate vineyards (Bordeaux, Champagne, Mosel etc)

Finally, we left out ... marketing. It is often able to lift up a mediocre wine - and vice versa. So try to stay away from ephemeral trends and focus only on the wine. You can't go wrong!

Happy summer - cheers!

Stavros Moustakas Oktapodas DipWSET

About the Editor:

Having a successful sales career, he entered into the wine world initially as a wine lover, continuously tasting and travelling in the wine regions of Europe, while actively communicating Greek wine through his blog. Certified as WSET Diploma, excelling with two scholarships (best overall performance, and best blind tasting skills in academic years 2016 and 2017). He has been wine consultant at a leading importing company, along with his responsibilities of strategy and communication of Greek wineries.