If you don't know what the basic signs of a quality red wine are, it can be hard to tell if the one you are drinking is a good one or not. It's even more difficult to spot a decent wine on the store shelf, but you can begin to understand how good a bottle of red wine is once you have opened it. Characteristics, such as smell, taste, colour and texture can all indicate the quality of a wine -- be it decent or disgusting.
The labels on bottles of wine are not just pretty decorations to grab your attention -- in fact, the backside of a wine bottle should have a second sticker that lists details such as the wine's age, flavour, smell, shipping method and vineyard. Keep an eye out for any flavours and spices you like the taste of and award stickers. If an oenophile (wine connoisseur) has deemed the bottle good enough for an award, it should be good enough for you.
Swill the wine around the glass and hold it up to your nose. The swilling will release the aromas in the wine and you should begin to smell certain fruits or spices. Wine comes in many different ages and each one is produced from many types of grapes; smells like honey, peppers, apple, oak and vanilla are not uncommon for a smell test. A good rule for a layman is that the more things you can smell, the better the quality of the wine.
Price is one of the biggest indicators of a good wine. Fine wine producers are not likely to let their products sell on the cheap; bargain wines are cheap because they are usually mass-produced from quick-growing grapes. Another aspect to consider when buying a bottle is the shape and detail on the bottle itself. Against popular belief, the shape and decorations of a bottle do not indicate any quality whatsoever and the punt -- the dip in bottom of the bottle -- is wrongly considered as a sign of quality. Wine manufacturers actually deliberately put the punt in to confuse buyers into thinking their wine is top-quality.
Spotting a Bad Wine
Corked wine is a wine that has been tainted by a fungus chemical found in the cork called TCA, which stands for 2.4.6-trichloroanisole. Any wine infected by the chemical is unpalatable and foul-tasting. Contrary to poplar belief, a corked wine is not one that has bits of cork in the wine and you can only smell of taste the signs of a truly corked red wine. A lightly corked wine will smell fruitless and taste bland, but an heavily corked wine will smell like mushrooms or mould and taste bitter. Cooked wines are also something you should avoid. These occur when a wine has been stored incorrectly and exposed to high levels of heat. You can spot a cooked wine by first looking at the cork because the hot air inside will force it up and out of the bottle neck. A leaking bottle neck is also a sign. Cooked wines will taste stewed or like prunes and the texture will be very thin.