The Fifth Element of Greatness: Complexity

Welcome back to the fifth post in the series The Nine Elements of Greatness. As many of you know, I believe all great wines share nine fundamental characteristics.

We’ve talked about Distinctiveness, Precision, Balance and Connectedness. Today I’ll talk about COMPLEXITY.

Wines fall along a spectrum from simple to complex. Simple wines are monochromatic in flavor and monodimensional in appeal. They may be delightful, but in a sense they have only one thing to say.

By comparison, complex wines have multifaceted aromas and flavors. And here’s the most important part: those layers of aroma and flavor reveal themselves sequentially over time.

Tasting a complex wine is a head trip. Just when you think you’ve grasped the flavors, the kaleidoscope turns, new flavors emerge, revealing different facets of the wine. A complex wine is therefore not “knowable” in one sip.

In fact, a complex wine almost pulls you into it, compelling you to take sip after sip in order to understand it (or at least follow) what’s going on!

I like to think that, as humans, we are somehow hardwired to like complexity; that the not-knowing-what-is-coming-next quality of a thing is appealing, and gravitational.

It’s important to note that complex wines don’t have to be powerful, and full bodied.  Fragility can be complex. Quiet music can be complex. When a wine has a lot to say, it doesn’t necessarily have to say it loudly.


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