Length

Definition - What does Length mean?

Length is a tasting term that describes how long the flavors of a wine last on your palate after the wine has been swallowed or spit. It is one of the components of a wine’s finish. In essence, Length is a measurement; it can be short, medium/moderate or long.

Length can be both a positive and negative characteristic of some wines depending on the preference of the taster. Many critics and tasters maintain that a long length is indicative of a great quality wine, and use the judgment of a wine’s length to indicate their displeasure with it. For example, a fan of claret will claim the length of red Bordeaux as long, while describing the length of a California red as short. However, a wine could have long length but unpleasant flavors. If the flavors that linger aren’t pleasant, the wine is not of good quality.

WineFrog explains Length

Length is an important tasting term when used appropriately. Without length, the finish of a wine would be overlooked and unnoticed. The persistence of flavors on the palate provides the taster with the time needed to analyze the finish and determine the quality of the wine’s flavors.

Short

This means that the flavors in the finish only persist for about 20 seconds or less. This is most common in young wines regardless of color, variety or quality. Those varieties that typically produce wines meant to be enjoyed young also tend to create wines with short length. These are:

  • Merlot
  • Chianti
  • Beaujolais

Other varieties and wines intended for aging will develop longer length as they mature.

Medium/Moderate

This is the average length for most good, but not exceptional, wines. The flavors will persist for 20 to 40 seconds on the tongue after the wine has been swallowed. Most Rieslings fall into this category, with the length sitting at around 30 seconds. Well-made young wines also fall into the medium/moderate length category.

Long/Great

Long wines have a length that persists for over 45 seconds and exceptional wines could last for minutes. A long finish means that there are powerful flavors in the wine and are indicative of careful crafting. Examples of long wines are:

  • California Chardonnay
  • Burgundy (white/red)
  • Bordeaux
  • Zinfandel
  • Cabernet Sauvignon

Using different techniques, winemakers can influence the length of the wine. If they want a long finish, they will select a variety (or varieties) that are known for producing full flavored wines. Second, they can control the alcohol content through stop fermentation or their winemaking style; alcohol pushes flavors on the palate and carries it through to the end. Finally, the vessel they use to age a wine (or even to hold it while it’s fermenting) can impart a longer length – oak is known to add length to a wine.

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