Tom's blog

So what really is a good wine?

I am constantly asked for a good wine suggestion. It never fails to puzzle me: good wine, according to whom? A good wine to me -- a Languedoc syrah, an aged Alsace pinot gris from old vines, an expensive barbaresco -- may not be good to you. And what in the hell is "good" anyway?

Bianca Bosker in her delightfully scandalous book, "Cork Dork," has come up with what I think is the best answer, albeit qualified. She writes, "There is, however, a subtle but important distinction between a wine that's good to me and a wine that's good."

OK, the proverbial light bulb finally went off. You and I can analyze a wine for its balance, complexity and finish and agree that it is a good wine technically -- but disagree on whether we like it. I've tasted a number of wines that meet these three important criterion and still not liked them. A number of German rieslings and California zinfandels come to mind. They aren't "good" to me.

Bosker argues that to truly determine if a wine is of good quality, you need an out-of-body experience. Ignore your biases and your sensory reaction to a wine and judge its quality on its technical analysis. Not everyone can do that, of course, so we are left with people who will continue ask us for a good wine and then become discouraged when our suggestion  is unappealing.

For me, the distinction between what is a good wine and what is good to me leads my answers in new directions. In the future I'll answer what I like with enough caveats to make a head spin.

You'll be seeing more thought-provoking blogs that relate to what I am reading in "Cork Dork." I can't remember a book that has gotten me to re-think what goes into tasting a wine.