Complexity in a wine is difficult to tightly define. It is quite a 'loaded', subjective term, open to interpretation. That said, complexity is considered a positive thing in a wine.
Sources of Complexity
In general, you are less likely to find complexity in a cheap, high volume, mass-produced wine than in a small-volume, estate produced, artisan wine. Nuances of complexity come from different things. Firstly, they can come from the vineyard and the notion of terroir. Older vines as well as vines grown on poor soils tend to produce less grapes, but more concentrated, flavorful ones. This adds complexity.
Secondly, winemaking techniques make a difference. In general, the more artisan and non-industrial the approach the more complex the resulting wine. Barrel fermentation, the blending of different grapes or lots, as well as lees aging are some of the winemaking technique that are considered to add complexity.
Finally, pre and post bottling maturation are sources of complexity. As a wine matures, all sorts of chemical changes occur. Existing compounds breakdown and new compounds are formed, changing and adding to the way a wine tastes.
Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.
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