Recently, I started a question on the diminishing returns of wine, which resulted in an answer that brought to light that any given wine is a 'work' dependent on a number of variables, such as, but not limited to:

  • Producer Choices
  • Weather
  • Soil
  • Breeding
  • Harvesting
  • Legal Obligations

The gist of the answer being that the production that has gone into the wine has a significant impact on the final product, with some production methods resulting in a high quality wine, and others resulting in a lower quality wine.

So my essential problem here is that if I go into a wine shop and am choosing from vintage wines where, grape variety, and sugar content are similar, how can I choose between two bottles in a non-arbitrary, and objective way?

  • Should I be researching specific aspects of their production methods?
  • Should I focus on who produced the wine?
  • Should I focus on region?
  • Should I rely on ratings of the wine?

Or is the process of selecting a wine a bit of a dark art?

Forgive me if my ignorance is showing here, I'd like to better understand the wine world and am starting from the bottom. I generally know which grapes I like and the differences between them, as well as sugar content I prefer, but in a nutshell I'm curious how one would choose between a set of different Cab Sauvs, or similar.

  • If only it were that simple!
    – Mick
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 15:43
  • Yep. I suspected that the process is difficult and hard to do objectively. Although there's got to be some, any process at all that wine experts use to decide on a wine based on quality. When I go into a wine shop I feel totally blind and would like to change that, to any degree. If it's not really doable at all, I'd like to know that too!
    – Cdn_Dev
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 15:47
  • 1
    I also want to say if you can find a community college or something nearby that offers wine sensory evaluation classes that will go a long way to understanding what you like niagaracollege.ca/parttimestudies/courses/OEVT/1122 Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 16:35
  • 1
    If you know the kind of grape, difference between them, and the sweetness you like, you are not ignorant anymore. Half the work is knowing what you want before searching for it !
    – Kaldui
    Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 12:43

2 Answers 2


how can I choose between two bottles in a non-arbitrary, and objective way?

You can't. It's purely a subjective exercise. It is a dark art that takes a lot of tasting and learning what regions you like and winemakers you like. Even high points from a well known critic aren't a sure bet. If I were you, I would start reading Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate and whatever online wine resources you can find to get an education about what you like.

Things are easier in Europe where they more tightly control the wine making/grape growing process and some regions like Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy you can assume a certain high quality from a certain appellation. In the "New" world (USA, Australia, South Africa, etc) it's more of a crap shoot. Napa Valley wine is not a sure bet. It involves a lot of research and personal preference.

People spend many years and tons of money trying to figure this out and it's a never ending process. The journey is long and paved with many bad bottles. Good luck!


Look on the back label of wines that you know and like.

Look at the importer named on the label.

Look for more wines from those importers for a way to greatly narrow down you choices into a batch you can trust.

Importers have a focus, a style they look for and a palate they use to filter down to what they like and invest in.

Follow that lead look for more wines from the importers who's wines you've enjoyed before.

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