What makes a good wine… good?

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By: Chris Fabri

A bit of an oxymoron I know, but honestly what makes a wine ‘good’ and entices you to buy it? Is it the vintage or the year? Is it simply the publicity and marketing? Could it be other factors, such as dinner arrangements and seasonality? Or is it the price or Landed Unit Cost (for all you restaurateurs and sommeliers)?

If it’s the price and you are one of those conscious people that purchase the $6.70 cask, yet still complain about the price increase of 20c whilst counting out your silver change to the poor girl behind the counter of Dan Murphy’s, please don’t read on…

Perhaps the latter was a bit harsh considering that I also find myself at times buying the $6 bottle of wine. However I buy it because the label reads ‘Reserva’ and it is sourced from a country where for the same price you can afford a family of five and a goat, well maybe just the goat. How about the local bottle shop that sells the 10+ year old Riesling in their $10 bargain bin? If you have tried the mindboggling excellence of aged Riesling I recommend you make time to stop and sieve through these bins!

With age in mind, have you ever heard someone say: “that’s a great vintage”? I have and constantly do, mainly out of my own mouth though. Vintage is 90% of everything. A good year is one of minimal rain, lots of sunshine and enough heat to let the berries ripen. For instance, where I currently live, the Mornington Peninsula in 2010 produced great Pinot Noir – It had minimal rain and was warm but not overly hot like in 2009 (Victorian Bushfires). 2011 saw lots of rain and didn’t get that hot, whilst 2012 was much like 2010. A winemaker recently said to me that 2011 vintage is much like Jan Brady (The Brady Bunch); by herself she looks good, however put her next to Marcia (2012) and Cindy (2010) and she gets lost.

One thing I have noticed about wines and wineries in general is that good ones don’t advertise or market and lower level bulk producers do (I’m sure I don’t have to mention names). Exceptions to the rule are those bigger, great wineries that play sponsors in big sporting events, for instance: MUMM champagne for the winner of the F1 to shake and spray everywhere, retail price £286.

For me it’s seasonal, much like food; dry whites in summer (Pinot Gris, Riesling and Arnies), rich dark reds in winter (Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Amarone) and chardonnay all year round.

With the above in mind, if you like a wine not even the price, vintage or region it comes from will alter your opinion. It could be a $5 clean skin or $300 French Burgundy. Whatever the label, whatever the vintage, life is too short to drink wine that you don’t like, so enjoy!

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