How to Judge Wine


Look for cleanliness and purity, lack of volatile acidity or other faults, and high aroma intensity; assess the purity and intensity of the aromas themselves (primary aromas = from the grapes, secondary aromas = conferred by the winemaking process, including oak, or aromas derived from particular yeasts, and tertiary aromas = aromas that develop as wines age); assess the stage of development – is it consistent for the wine style and the wine’s age?; assess the degree of complexity = the extent to which the aromas combine in an harmonious and pleasing way.


Assess the colour hue – is it consistent with the wine style and the wine’s age?; the colour intensity – how deep is the colour?; the clarity = ideally bright to brilliant, and without haze or cloudiness; and other observations – spritz (carbon dioxide bubbles), or sediment – none acceptable in white wines, a small amount acceptable in older red wines.


Look for cleanliness and purity, and lack of volatile acidity or other off-flavours or components which adversely affect the overall ‘mouthfeel’. If any bitterness, consider if it constitutes a fault (dependent on the wine style). Consider the wine’s ‘body’ (the combination of sweetness/apparent sweetness, acidity, alcohol, and tannin); the flavour intensity and depth of overall flavour; the individual flavours (primary, secondary, tertiary); the length of time the flavours persist and which flavours persist (the wines’ ‘length’ – the ‘longer’ the better, and the wine’s ‘finish’ = the final impression of the flavours and mouthfeel); the balance = how integrated the combination of all the components is = lack of dominance of particular characters; and the degree of complexity = the number and diversity of components, and the extent to which they combine in an harmonious and pleasing way.

Quality Assessment Scoring Guidelines


95 - 100 Points

Meeting all requirements and expectations of a wine of the particular style: clear varietal or style definition, complexity, intensity, balance and persistence. Free from taints and faults.


75 - 85 Points

Sound wines, free of major faults or defects, but lacking a degree of distinctiveness. Simple and not to be ‘rewarded’


90 - 95 Points

A very good wine, that doesn’t quite meet the standard required for a gold medal, but with more distinctiveness, complexity, intensity and balance than a bronze medal wine. Free from taints and faults.


65 - 75 Points

Simple or low intensity flavours; minor to more pronounced defects. Lacking balance, freshness or varietal characteristics.


85 - 90 Points

A wine with a degree of distinctiveness, complexity, intensity and balance, free from major taints or faults.


Less than 65 Points

Obvious, dominating defects or having a specific unacceptable taint at any level.

The above judging criteria and comments have been provided for the purpose of education and do not represent the views, opinions or position of judges, officials or the RA&HS. Any resemblance to actual persons, competitors, or exhibits living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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