It is important to distinguish between a " bad wine " and a " wine you don't like ": they are sometimes two different things, just as a "good wine" isn't necessarily a wine you like! Learning what are the criteria that define the quality of a wine, is therefore essential to tell if a wine is good or bad, regardless of your personal appreciation for it.
Each of us has a very specific taste profile : there are those who like sugar and those who prefer acidity. It all depends on your taste experiences, your background, your culture. Each of us has a different perception threshold of flavors (sweet/sour/salty/bitter), even of aromas.
All this to tell you that according to the gustatory profile that characterizes you, you will appreciate a specific wine, while another taster will have more pleasure in savoring another wine. But here, it is possible that a wine is well made, that it has a nice olfactory richness, a pleasant balance, but that – for example – its fat, or its very present tannins, annoy you. It is here that the border lies between the quality of the wine and the perception one has of it, which is subjective.
What determines the quality of a wine
The quality of a wine is determined by some conditions:
CONDITION N° 1: THE WINE IS NOT DEFECTIVE
Needless to say no? Even if your perception threshold will make you more or less sensitive to the identification of an alteration in the wine, a fault is not part of the subjective order.
CONDITION N° 2: THE WINE HAS A GOOD BALANCE
We are talking about the gustatory aspect. The balance of a wine is characterized by 2 or 3 axes, depending on whether it is white or red:
For the white wine:
Balance on 2 axes: Acidic / unctuous (sugar, alcohol)
For the red wine:
Balance on 3 axes: acid / oily (sugar, alcohol) / tannin
In short, the idea is the same: to satisfy the 2nd condition, the wine must not be crushed by one of the axes. For example, a white wine with too much acidity will seem too green to you. Vice versa: a white wine with an excess of fat (for example too much sugar, and little acidity to balance it) will seem too cloying.
For red wine, an excess of tannin will make the wine astringent, too bitter and uniform. However, if this same wine has enough fat to mask the tannins (because fat coats the mouth, while tannins dry it out), then it will remain balanced. It is very important to understand this notion: in wine everything revolves around balance.
Here is another example of this notion of balance: wine A may have more acidity than wine B. Yet this wine A may seem less acidic to you because its fat balances the acidity. Do you understand the nuance? Therefore, in order for the wine to be of quality, it must satisfy this second condition: it must be balanced.
Note also that balance evolves over time, and a wine that seemed too edgy (acid) may turn out to be balanced as it ages.
CONDITION N° 3: THE WINE HAS GOOD PERSISTENCY IN THE MOUTH
The length in the mouth corresponds to the time during which the aromas remain in the mouth after spitting or ingesting the wine. There is also talk of aromatic persistence , which is much more explicit.
This length in the mouth corresponds to the wine's aromatic potential , which is related to the quality of the grape. It is therefore necessary for the wine to have a good olfactory range, which persists in the mouth.
You've probably already noticed it: some wines disappear as soon as you swallow them! Their aromas vanish immediately. Others remain present, and persist for 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 20 seconds. This aromatic persistence is linked to the quality of the wine. The olfactory range (the quantity of aromas perceived) and its intensity (the strength of the aromas) will depend on many factors, but the quality of the grape and its maturity are fundamental conditions.