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Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in DĂșn Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Simple complexity?

At a tasting of Central Otago wines today, the excellent winemaker/presenter Jenn Parr responded to a comment about brett in one of the wines (I didn't note any fwiw) that sometimes this can add complexity. I've heard this comment a lot and I don't agree - to me, what makes a wine complex is not just one more flavour.
Imagine you've never tasted any fruits, so when you're tasting a wine and someone says the wine shows notes of ripe apples, pears, a hint of apricot with an undertone of lychee and kiwi fruit then all you hear is "blah blah blah blah"! You're impressed by the taster's ability to recognise all these flavours but they are meaningless to you. You then ask where these flavours come from and you're told the grape. Hmmm, pretty simple origin yet, for many, a long list of flavours adds complexity.
No it doesn't - what makes a wine complex is a lovely mix between (and you'll see from the next bit how old-fashioned I am!) between primary fruit flavours, secondary fermentation flavours and tertiary maturation flavours. It's not what you smell but what it means that adds complexity. Even the greatest wines, in youth, are fairly simple c.f. Harry Waugh on Latour '61 from cask: deep colour, bags of fruit. Wines can only truly show complexity as they age and develop - is a classic Clare Riesling really all that complex at only 2 - 4 years of age? No, not really - lots of lovely depth and minerality on top of the citrus notes of young riesling but it's only as the wines reach 10 to 15 years that they become complex and truly world class, when the wines starts to show the classic lime marmalade on toast notes of age.
It seems to me that complexity is like genius - we constantly hear about how so many very ordinary sportsmen and women are geniuses, but they're not. Many wines have a lovely range of primary flavours, but that don't make 'em complex!

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