A while back I was asked to preside over a natural wine competition. I agreed but refused to score the wines, as most competitions do. So I devised my own scale. My idea is that if a wine has any 5 of these characteristics, it’s a beauty. Why don’t you try it on for size?
1. EMOTIONAL IMPACT
Does it evoke a reaction, positive or negative? Does it get to you in some way? Make you smile? Laugh? Does it intrigue you? Can you hear it “speak”? This could be the most important aspect of a great wine.
It dances, with or without bubbles.
3. EVOLUTION IN THE GLASS
Closely related to life, the wine evolves. Every taste is different.
Are all of the pieces working with one another, or does something screech aggressively, like too much acid overwhelming the fruit? We are looking for something that feels at peace with itself and harmonious.
5. DRINKABILITY AND DIGESTIBILITY
Basic! Do you want to drink it? Does it feel good? Does the wine feel healthy? Not to get too New Age about it, but does your body accept the wine as if it is nutritious?
6. SAVORY QUALITY
Any wine can be fruit driven, but look for that certain herbal, bitter, or earthy element that grounds the flavor, and takes the wine to a higher level.
The wine isn’t wearing makeup. It’s not hiding behind a technique, like using new oak barrels to impart woodiness.
8. SENSE OF PLACE
Some people call it terroir, but take it more generally. You might not know where the wine comes from, but it takes you somewhere, wherever that is.