Concentration. What a fabulous wine word.
I do not hear it used often enough by those casually into wine but it certainly it is alive in the expert vernacular. I believe many drinkers notice (and respond) to it easily enough but may use some terms that are just a shade off when describing the sensation. Concentration relates to how intensely the wine actually tastes, a robust quality, and therefore is usually lumped into what we define as BODY. Words like powerful, rich, full, and big come up all the time, which are words that blur the lines a bit between volume and complexity. It is easy enough to find wines that fit them, but a practiced sommelier thinks quite often in terms of concentration for a good wine over massive sensations. So what I am talking about?
Concentration, in a simple sense, is the level of how densely packed a particular wine is with the components that produce flavors on the palate, the solid extract from the wine making residue, floating in the soupy mix of liquid that actually tastes of something. Underneath all the agitation of acidity and the power of alcohol, past the sweet effects of sugar, lies a presence of substance that can almost stain the palate. It is noticed more in the finish of the wine, perhaps around the gum line and the back of the tongue, and in all the places where it lands and refuses to leave, as a residual flavor. It is also the guts we reference in the array setting of a 3 BODY (a deep wine with plenty of guts) on thewinearray. In a balanced combination, it makes a wine long and interesting. This of course can have tremendous amounts of variation, in both white or red wines, and even in wines made from the same grapes, but a wine with some real concentration is self-evident. And it is memorable. There is a saturation of flavor that pervades the spectrum of textures. Lets call it the staying power of the wine. Maybe the core of the wine? This can be coupled with BODY as it adds thick-thin flavor dimensions to richness, yet its less about volume and weight. Take the example of brewed tea. The length of time to soak a tea bag connotes concentration without additional body, where as adding cream to the tea, adds texture and additional flavor. Concentration is not bulk. It does not expand outward, it sinks below waiting to proudly remain as all else fades. Some wine may have a very thin weight, a delicacy lets say, and still have a core to savor. It could feel fine and continue to linger in complexity, but it is not because of its power.
Perhaps it helps to describe the opposite end of the spectrum, when a wine feels diluted. Imagine a wine tasting hollow or watered-down, meaning low concentration. A glass with a melting ice cube, with the slow addition of liquid volume without more wine. Maybe some honest aromas remain and/or hefty volume, but the taste would fade. A lack of concentration seems weak and finishes short on taste, leaving the taster to enjoy the taste-less effects of acidity, tannin and/or alcohol.
A wine with great depth can only come from a grape that has been coaxed to intense flavor ripeness, one that is watched over until perfect picking time (what is the happy effect of phenolic ripening, where wonderful flavors develop before sugars hit their max levels). A wine maker can taste this in the grape, well before it becomes wine. WIneries that simply pick based on sugar levels may miss the mark on flavor complexity. This is where the complication comes in when accurate vocabulary is in question. When a drinker says they want a BIG wine, a POWERFUL or BOLD wine, they tend to be referring to the weight and BODY, assuming the concentrated flavors will naturally follow. That is not always the case. These wines can be immediate and have the impact that some drinkers love, but somehow remain less dimensional and finish on one note.
Perhaps a finer wine with considerable concentration, one that has depth but a more graceful introduction, might result in a new, if not more complete experience. It is my experience that young drinkers start with the former and develop into the latter as they drink more and more wine. Perhaps they themselves, have learned to concentrate more? Discerning the difference at decision-making time for the right wine, might make all the difference.
Funny enough, concentration is itself a focus or concentration for many wine drinkers. It can make a simple wine magnificent and push a good wine into the leagues of greatness. More to that, it only takes a little bit of concentration to understand what concentration in wine is. Otstanding!
Its simply one good word to focus on.