Elements of Wine 7: Finish
The ‘finish’ of a wine is also known as its ‘length’. It refers to how we perceive the wine once we have swallowed it. Much of our sense of taste is actually due to olfactory senses in our nose picking up volatile aroma chemicals from inside the nasal cavity (called ‘retronasal stimulation’). Thus, we can continue to ‘taste’ the wine after it has left our tongues.
I think about the finish of a wine in a number of ways. Firstly, I consider the length: how long does the sensation of the wine’s flavours last after swallowing? Simple wines will disappear from the palate almost immediately after swallowing, whereas the flavours of the finest wines continue to be experienced after many minutes. Indeed, there have been occasions where I’ve woken up the next morning (even after brushing my teeth) and am still able to recall the flavours and aromas of a particularly fine wine the night before!
Secondly, I think about the quality of the finish. Inasmuch as the wine on the palate needs to be balanced, so too should the finish be harmonious. A final sensation of too much acidity without any fruit flavours present, or too much alcohol leaving an unpleasant burn on the back of the throat is not the sign of a fine wine – no matter how long these sensations last. Likewise a bitter tannic finish, or a cloying sweet finish, are signs that the wine is not well balanced structurally. Some wines can leave unpleasant flavours in the mouth that you would rather disappeared quickly! An ideal finish is one that combines length with elegance and has the perfect balance of flavour, alcohol, acidity and sugar.
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Dr James Flewellen is The Rambling Epicure wine columnist. James is a biophysicist at the University of Oxford. Originally from New Zealand, James learned his trade in taste through the Oxford Blind Wine Tasting Society, of which he was the President from 2010-2012. During his term, he represented Oxford at many international blind tasting competitions – twice winning the prestigious ‘Top Taster’ Award in the annual Varsity blind tasting match against Cambridge University and captaining winning teams in competitions throughout Europe.
James runs wine education courses in Oxford through the Oxford Wine Academy and is completing the WSET Professional Diploma in Wine and Spirits. He is the founder of The Oxford Wine Blog and co-author of the forthcoming book: The Concise Guide to Wine and Blind Tasting.