Deciding Wine Quality – The Flavour Lingers Longer

When children first start playing video games, the responses are slow, inaccurate and awkward. After many hours of practice over the months and years, everything moves fluidly, quickly and precisely. The same progression occurs in wine tasting.

Some great wines are huge, full, powerful and structured. (Cabernet.) Some great wines are lean, long, elegant and fine. (Riesling.) Some wines are soft, plush, sensual and aromatic, while some are elegant, light, ethereal and wonderful. (Pinot Noir.) Some great wines are smooth, round, long and seamless, with no awkwardness or edges, and a seemingly lingering and endless aftertaste. (Botrytis wines.)

I was once tasting with a famous winemaker who was asked why people pay $10 for one wine and $100 for another. He was at a loss. I said, “Let me answer that.” Those factors mentioned in describing the wines above do not mention the one character that every great wine must have. Enormous length of flavour.

It does not make any difference as to whether it is a béarnaise sauce, a cup of coffee, a stick of asparagus or any sort of wine – length of flavour is the key to quality.

One of the great English masters of wine used a stopwatch to measure a wine’s length of flavour. A cask wine flavours drops away at your throat. Penfolds Bin 28 at your third top button. Bin 389 at your fifth shirt button, and Yquem…. well, who knows? The stopwatch is clicked off at the finish – at the crispness end of riesling, the acid and structuring tannins of a young cabernet or the mellow, round balance of a fully matured red.

The time from the mouth entry to the finish is length of flavour. Then there is the type of finish as discussed above. Later, the lingering flavour and mouthfeel sensations are the aftertaste.

Wine length can only be gained from the right clone of the best variety in the best terroir – pruned appropriately – and from a great season.

But the most important quality factor? Length.

John Jens, 24th Feb 2017