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© 2018 Complexity is a term that is often invoked by people when writing appreciatively about the taste, aroma/bouquet, and/or flavour of wine. However, it is not clear what exactly wine complexity refers to. The present study was designed to uncover which attributes are most strongly linked to the social drinker's perception of complexity in wine. Notably, unlike previous studies of wine complexity, we assessed the temporal component of complexity by acquiring information from participants at the various stages of smelling, tasting, and aftertaste. Furthermore, natural language processing techniques were used to analyse participants’ flavour descriptors in order to assess their semantic associations with complexity. Eight wines, chosen for their ability to showcase various aspects of complexity, were tasted in three flights, grouped by dry white, red, and sweet wines. Participants rated the perceived liking, quality, and complexity of each wine, as well as listing flavours of the wines perceived at different stages (aroma, in-mouth, post-swallowing). The results demonstrated that complexity was positively correlated with liking and with quality, but not with the price of the wines or the number of flavours detected. Furthermore, semantic analysis revealed that participants used more consistent vocabulary to describe wines that they perceived to be more complex. We also observed similar consistency trends for wines that were liked more, as well as wines rated to be lower quality. In general, secondary and tertiary flavours (derived from fermentation or from ageing) were more often used to describe more complex wines. These results reveal intriguing patterns in how social drinkers assess perceive/infer wine complexity, as well as elucidating the relationship between complexity, quality, and liking.

Original publication




Journal article


Food Quality and Preference

Publication Date





238 - 244