Think of the perfect cup of tea, where every element, milk, water and the leaf itself is in complete harmony.
That, in essence, is what wine experts call 'balance'. It can be achieved at 8% or 16% alcohol, or at two or 100 grams per litre of residual sugar. Other factors include the fruit quotient, the oak (if used), acidity and tannins. Ideally, they all hang together to create the balance a wine needs to deliver where it matters most - on your palate. A smooth ride with no ‘sharp corners’. The perfect journey.
To be 'clean', a wine must be free of off-flavours or aromas. Improved winery hygiene has helped negate this as a general issue, but cannot be taken for granted. This article explains more, but ongoing issues include the presence of Sulphur Dioxide, a popular antioxidant and antimicrobial, affecting the taste and smell of wine.
So, should you choose cork, synthetic or screw cap? Received wisdom dictates a small amount of oxidation, a natural result of using cork, ensured the wine matures in the bottle, and that is why it still caps more than 70% of bottled wine. But there are other considerations, including environmental issues. There is no perfect answer. So we focus on the wine, and believe the failure rate, known as 'cork taint' is unacceptable. Serving a 'corked' wine ruins too many special occasions, so we favour Stelvin, the brand name for screw-cap.
"Describes the combination of soil, climate, and other local factors influencing a wine's character"
Wine is not like Coca Cola, or any other mass-produced drink. It must express the variety or varieties of grape that underpin it, and reflect the climate and topography from where it came. We specifically look for wines that express these key characteristics, as we feel a sense of place is a vital part of a wine‘s makeup.
Price isn't everything. There are many good value wines available for anything from £6 to £20 a bottle.
Wine pricing is complex, with many moving parts. What variety or varieties of grapes were used? How was the wine aged, or not, the terroir, the ripeness of fruit, tannins, alcohol levels, type and level of acidity, maturity and length of finish.
Nicholson's criteria is to keep the customer front and centre, and decide whether we, as consumers, would be comfortable paying the asking price. If we are, then the wine has passed a major first hurdle.