Palate and its categories

Complexity

Maynard Amerine, and Edward Roessler, in their book "Wines, Their sensory Evaluation" published by W H Freeman & Company 1983, summarizes complexity in a way that is totally satisfactory.

"Like fine art, fine wines are made by impeccable workmanship plus a clear concept of the aesthetic standards by which they will be judged…… The components must complement one another synergistically and excite our aesthetic appreciation. A great wine should have so many facets of quality that as we sample it we are continually finding new ones. It is this complexity that enables us to savor such a wine without losing our interest in it."

Winemakers of great wine go out of their way to create a complex wine. They may use grapes from different picking dates, different regions or add small components of complimentary grapes to add further complexity. Different fermentation techniques, different barrel types, size and age, different yeast, different racking schedules, minimal or no filtrations etc.

Complexity may be assessed by the following categories:

  • neutral
  • cask wine
  • commercial wine / vin de pays
  • good commercial wine / appellation controllee
  • complex / village wines
  • very complex / single estate / multi regional
  • multi layered / classified growths
  • memorable / first growths

Concentration

Flavour is the summation of the total experience of aroma and taste, texture, balance and persistence. Persistence of flavour or concentration does not come about easily and is primarily tied to yield. The great growths of the world all yield at less than 3 tonnes per acre and more likely between 1 ½ and 2 tonnes. The berry sizes are small, the ratio of skin to juice is high and the resultant wines are highly concentrated. In some cases the levels of concentration may appear to be almost a purée of the juice of the freshly crushed grapes

  • tasteless
  • watery
  • dilute
  • light
  • concentrated
  • very concentrated
  • concentrate
  • reduced
  • 'jerapega'

Fruit

The quality of the underlying fruit which the wine has been made from is important and should be retained as part of the palate and flavour experience. The fruit character can also be overwhelmed by the winemaker and winemaking procedure so that a wine is so overworked that the fruit is totally masked

  • green / unripe
  • totally masked
  • masked
  • subdued
  • restrained
  • very young
  • abundant
  • voluptuous
  • over-ripe
  • porty
  • oxidized
  • faded

Degree of Ripeness

The degree of sugar (beaume) achieved in the grapes prior to harvesting will impact upon the total sweetness of the finished wine. In the assessment of wines, the analysis should take into account the various groups of sweetness, and for Riesling the German classification system should be considered. spatlese

  • auslese
  • beerenauslese
  • trokenbeerenauslese
  • eiswine
  • Spatlese

Sweet, Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon wines should be considered as botrytis wines and assessed on that basis.

(b) Length

The length of a wine is based on time and relates to the persistence with which the wine lingers in the mouth. To an extent the length and aftertaste work as a pair and a wine may have length, but little aftertaste and vise- versa.

The length of flavour is also related to the degree of concentration of fruit, so it is unlikely that a wine will have long palate length if it is delicate or watery.

Neutral 0 sec
Cask wine 1-2 sec
Commercial wine 3-4 sec
Good commercial wine 5-6 sec
Complex 8-10 sec
Very complex 10-15 sec
Multi layered 15-20 sec
Memorable 20 plus sec