What is a Fine Wine?
You’ve probably heard the term ‘fine wine’. But have you ever wondered what exactly makes a wine ‘fine’? It’s not just a premium price tag — though many fine wines, due to their limited availability and popularity, cost more than your average bottle. Fine wines are made with the very best grapes, are produced with extra care, and often come with the potential to age. But ultimately you can recognise a fine wine by its taste. It will have balance, length, complexity and a sense of place, known as terroir.
The world’s best fine wines are extremely well-balanced. Every element — acidity, sweetness, tannin, body and alcohol —coexists in perfect harmony, without overpowering the others. The ideal balance will vary with each individual wine. In a crisp white Chablis, for example, everything might be restrained: expect a light body met with lean fruit and flint flavours, and fresh acidity. In a warm-climate premium red wine designed for ageing, such as bold reds from California, that might mean powerful tannin, plentiful fruit, punchy alcohol levels and full body. For example, 'Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon' from the Napa Valley balances rich, ripe flavours with robust structure from oak and firm tannins.
Try these premium examples of wines with exceptional balance.
Fine wines don’t only taste delicious – they reflect the place they’ve come from. This is often referred to as ‘terroir’. Terroir combines everything about where the grapes are grown, from a vineyard’s location and soil type, to its microclimate and surroundings. Sipping a wine that reflects terroir is a bit like enjoying a snapshot of the vineyard at a moment in time; it’s a totally unique drinking experience. This is why many – though not all – of the world’s most renowned fine wines tend to be made with grapes from a single vineyard or a select few. For example, Premier Cru Burgundy wines are sourced from a selection of premium vineyards to capture the essence of the terroir.
Try these outstanding wines which reflect their terroir.
The best way to learn to spot a fine wine is to taste them for yourself. Check out our collection here .
While more simple wines may have just a handful of aroma and flavour characteristics, the best fine wines come with layers of complex flavours. This is partly thanks to the grapes themselves – the prime vineyard landscape in which they’re grown and the careful techniques of the winegrower. But it is also down to how the wine was made and whether (and how) it was aged. Many fine wines are designed for ageing and develop complexity as they rest in bottle. For example, premium red Burgundy is known to show earthy mushroom flavours as it ages, while the finest mature Rioja can display complex notes of leather.
Try these complex fine wines.