February 7, 2011

The Long & Short of It


    A complex sequence of flavours and aromas after swallowing or spitting. Wines are judged in part on the quality and duration of the finish. Sometimes called the farewell.

The full sensory impact of wine comes in three stages: attack, development and finish. We sip the wine and have our first impression. The wine then reveals more of its character on the ‘mid palate’, the development. Finally there is the finish -- those last few moments before the flavour and aroma impression fades completely.

The finish (close, farewell, etc.) is an important part of what a wine has to offer. A “short” wine has a finish that lasts a mere second or two. Beyond that, there’s nothing to savour. A great wine, on the other hand, can last for much longer: a minute or more. The French have a word for the length of the finish: caudalie, where one caudalie is equal to one second of length.

The finish consists of both length: how long it lasts, and after taste: the quality of the impression. Sometimes a wine’s character is only fully revealed in the aftertaste. Bitterness and ‘corkiness’, for example, can sometimes be sensed in the finish even though it was not evident in the mid-palate. But we much prefer the other scenario, when the aftertastes is as good or better than what came before. And if it lasts a long time, well that’s about as good as it gets. One caudalie, two caudalie, three caudalie...

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