What makes a wine "complex?"

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David H.
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What makes a wine "complex?"

#1 Post by David H. » August 27th, 2017, 5:21 pm

I hear and read this and quite honestly do not know what this means. Does this refer to a wine that you can detect secondary and tertiary flavors? Balanced in all components along with secondary and tertiary flavors?

What are the best references to learn more about things like this?
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Michael Martin
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What makes a wine "complex?"

#2 Post by Michael Martin » August 27th, 2017, 5:22 pm

Some wines taste like one thing, some wines taste like many things.

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Steven Brown
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What makes a wine "complex?"

#3 Post by Steven Brown » August 28th, 2017, 10:26 am

From my brief experience in the world of wine, a wine is “complex” when it offers one flavor on entering the mouth, another through the so-called mid palate, and another on the finish. I mean, at the very least. Better wines offer multiple layers with each of these three experiences.

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Ian Sutton
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What makes a wine "complex?"

#4 Post by Ian Sutton » September 3rd, 2017, 5:22 am

Michael Martin wrote:Some wines taste like one thing, some wines taste like many things.
In general I'd keep it simple like this.

In addition to Steven's comment, there are also wines where the aroma and palate seem to change with every sniff/taste, which is another way that complexity comes through.
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Steve Slatcher
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What makes a wine "complex?"

#5 Post by Steve Slatcher » September 4th, 2017, 3:09 pm

I'd say a complex wine shows multiple flavours (on the nose and/or palate). Those could be perceived as layers (as Steven described) or on different sniff/sips (see Ian's comment), or indeed simultaneously. Some young wines are more complex than other young wines. But I believe people usually think of tertiary aromas when they use the term complexity, and subtle harmonious nuances rather than unpleasant contrasts. Thus the term is almost by definition positive.

It is also a term that is IMO abused in marketing. E.g. we aged in oak, or blended in some Merlot, to add a touch of complexity. I don't think complexity is something you can create in such a simplistic fashion.

You also cannot assume that bunging in lots of different aromas make for complexity. If you do that you risk finishing up with an olfactory version of white noise. I wrote a bit about that here http://www.winenous.co.uk/wp/archives/4041. There are also a few other authoritative definitions of complexity there BTW.

I don't know of any particularly good reference on this sort of thing. It is stuff you pick up from various sources, and as you can see, everyone will have a slightly different opinion.

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What makes a wine "complex?"

#6 Post by Adam Z A K K A » December 13th, 2017, 10:31 am

I think of complex wine as deep in finish and rich in texture. More earth and tannin than anything else but with good balance.

A fruit-forward "round wine" is not complex to me, while it may offer a transition on the palate. That would appear complex to the poster above, but doesn't fit as complex to me.

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Rory K.
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What makes a wine "complex?"

#7 Post by Rory K. » March 22nd, 2018, 7:11 am

Good answers above, it does seem to be a hopelessly abused marketing term in addition. For me my favorite feature in a wine is to find something new every time I smell it, make me feel like I'm following something that is developing rather than drinking a coke, which is what it is.
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Michael Martin
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What makes a wine "complex?"

#8 Post by Michael Martin » March 22nd, 2018, 7:25 am

Rory K. wrote:Good answers above, it does seem to be a hopelessly abused marketing term in addition. For me my favorite feature in a wine is to find something new every time I smell it, make me feel like I'm following something that is developing rather than drinking a coke, which is what it is.
Very good. I had wine the other night and it was so complex, it made me think about every sip because it brought out something new in the wine.

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Yao C
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What makes a wine "complex?"

#9 Post by Yao C » March 22nd, 2018, 2:07 pm

One other form of complexity is when you're following a wine over the course of a dinner, and it expresses different facets of itself at different times, or when tasted in combination with different foods. Maybe the fruit changes color, or there's an elusive spice note that emerges here and there, etc etc. I find this really endlessly fascinating

Edit: yes this is exactly what Rory and Michael are saying above; I'm blind
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