No preference for one
In my evaluations I try as hard as I can to taste beyond my personal preferences for certain styles of wine. This is difficult, but during the many years I have been tasting wines I developed a professional attitude in assessing the intrinsic qualities of the wines I taste. Many wines I judge as very good or excellent would not be my first choice to drink for pleasure. An analogy: some people would not like to have an excellent painting of Rubens in their sitting room, even if they could afford one.
The following set of criteria or standards are the bases for my evaluations
First of all: balance
For me balance in a wine is the most important factor of all. In wine two types of balance can be distinguished: total balance (harmony between smell, taste and aftertaste) and balance in the make-up of the taste (acidity, alcohol, tannin, extract, aroma, etc.)
It is very difficult to indicate exactly what balance in a wine is, but experienced tasters instinctively know what it means. Key to balance in a wine is that the proportions of the many taste and aroma factors in a wine are harmonious or potentially harmonious (in young, immature wines).
Cleanliness, no faults
Nowadays with the wide availability of knowledge of the wine production process and modern techniques, well made wines should be the norm. Still there are too many wines with off flavours because of problems in the vineyard or cellar. Only wines that are well made are selected.
Depth and refinement
These qualities are a bonus, for the majority of the wines produced can not be special in quality, their main quality is an affordable price in combination with a clean and sound character. Wines that provide pleasure to many people.
To produce wines with depth and refinement you need a very good vineyard, mature vines, a favourable climate and a capable, quality oriented wine producer. These wines can never be cheap.
Concentration and power
For me concentration is more important than power, even a light and elegant wine can be concentrated, without being powerful. The trend of (blind) tasting large series of wines and in a limited time favours expressive wines with a lot of power. More elegant and refined wines tend to show their elegance as leanness and their refinement is easily lost in the high aromatic threshold during these tasting” battles”. Power and concentration (and wood) are more and more associated with quality: the bigger the better. This is not surprising because power, concentration and wood (vanillin) are easy to recognize by anyone. To understand and appreciate elegance and refinement experience certainly helps. Only the true great powerful wines of the world possess the rare combination of power, depth, refinement and balance.
I consider breed and a specific character in a wine as something valuable, especially in a time the world is flooded with well produced Chardonnays, Sauvignon-Blancs, Cabernet Sauvignons and Syrah’s. Most of the time these modern (varietal) wines are easy to drink and provide a lot of pleasure for reasonable prices. But the world has more to offer than just good quality: an exciting myriad of tastes and aromas, countless characters originating from unique grape varieties, specific (micro) climates, numerous types of soil and a wide range of wine making methods. This is what makes wine really interesting to many people. At this time varietals seem to set the standards and become the reference point for wine. There is a danger consumers forget the other (more interesting) part of the wine spectrum. Without knowing, they miss a whole world of exciting wines, many of them as easy to drink as the mainstream Chard and Cab’s.
I introduced this special category for wines that contribute to the wealth of our world's tastes and aroma's, wines with a unique and distinctive character, most of the time highly original in style and expressing their provenance strongly. See also: **Heritage Wine**