Analyzing Wine for Quality: Clarity and Brightness

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Photo: Thomas Bray

Like all things requiring a certain degree of skill, tasting wine to determine quality is a task that does not come easy and requires a great amount of repetition and guidance. With that in mind there are some aspects of the skill that come easier than others. One of these simple procedures is examining the wine’s clarity and brightness.

Holding the wine up against a white background and under natural light is typically paramount for visual analysis, but isn’t as important for this step. Examine the wine first for clarity. All wines of high quality generally are very clear and do not present as hazy and opaque. Nine times out of ten your wine will be clear so this should not be as much of an issue. If the wine is hazy, you should consult whoever sold the bottle to you on why it appears this way. This may be a result of a specific style of winemaking, but it is generally recognized as a flaw.

The next step is to next determine if the wine is at its prime or nearing its death. This can be determined by examining the brightness, or the wine’s ability to reflect light. Wines that reflect light clearly and brilliantly are generally preferred as this indicates youth as well as higher levels of acidity that are desired for aging some styles of wine. Those wines that present as dull and are lacking clarity may be closer to the end of their road and should be bought with reservation.

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