Our Wine Guide: Tasting for Quality

Written by Nick Bulleid MW

Nick Bulleid MW is often asked how he finds the best quality in wines—to answer the question Nick has put together the following guide; ‘Tasting for Quality’.

Remember, firstly, that quality is what pleases you and meets your expectations. All the same, I find we all have broad areas of agreement, so here are my tips.


With any wine, all the elements should be in harmony – acidity, alcohol, tannins and sweetness (if present) – so that you have an even sensation right through the mouth. You may not find those wines that lack balance so enjoyable; flabby wines that lack acidity; the “hot” sensation of wines with too much alcohol; the bitterness of under-ripe reds with “green” tannins.

Length of Flavour

We all have our favourite varieties and tastes, and usually the more intense those flavours the better. The best wines are also those when the flavours persist in the mouth for a long time. You can actually time it; a few seconds – not too good; a minute – fantastic!


Do you find that after a couple of tastes there’s not much more to find in a wine, that you can take it in at a glance? Odds are it’s quite simple and you’ll only want one glass. Or are you fascinated by the characters that emerge from another wine as you taste further? It intrigues you. That’s a more complex wine that you’ll want to drink again.

Some Tips on Cellaring

Not all wines age well in bottle. Most of those on the shelves for under $15, say, are best drunk early. Also, a wine may develop well over time, but the result may not be to your taste.

There’s win and lose in cellaring wine. What you lose are the fresh, fruity flavours of the grape variety, but these are replaced by more complex flavours, like cigar box, spices, and leather in reds, and toast, and honey in whites. If you enjoy a wine – red or white – for its fresh fruit characters, then drink it now, no matter what you’re told about its cellaring potential. But if you enjoy those really intriguing flavours of mature wine, then you’ll want to follow the way the wine ages.

All wines must have intense flavours and pass the three-cornered quality test I outlined above. Reds should have tannins, whether strong or soft, that evenly coats the whole mouth and avoids a bitter, unripe taste. Whites should have plenty of fresh acidity.

Best of all, taste them with someone who’s opinion you respect and as often as possible.

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