What Does 'Elegance' Mean in Wine? | Wine Enthusiast
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What Does ‘Elegance’ Mean in Wine?

In the realm of wine, the term “elegance” goes beyond aromas and flavors: It encapsulates a harmonious balance of finesse, restraint and sophistication. An elegant wine is one that seamlessly integrates its components, leaving a lasting impression. This delicate quality is often associated with subtlety rather than boldness, with a focus on nuance and refinement.

These wines are not your big, broad-shouldered bottles. However, elegant wines do not have to be light-bodied. They do tend to be more restrained and often will not show you all they have to offer in the first sip. It’s an overall vibe as much as a mouthfeel, which includes the texture on the palate—like the way a fine cashmere sweater feels on your skin, or the sensation of hearing Yo-Yo Ma play Bach’s soft, soothing Cello Suite No. 1. But one thing all elegant wines must possess is true balance and searing acidity, which sets these restrained wines in contrast to their opulent and powerful counterparts.

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“I find elegant wines to be gracefully refined, and to express a complex, yet well-structured, profile,” says Victor Dedushaj, wine director for New York City’s Benjamin Steakhouse Group. It takes time to achieve this level of nuance and finesse, he explains. “I feel that young wines, even when showcasing great qualities from the get-go, need at least a few years of bottle age before they can be deemed elegant.”

Few wines embody elegance more than the white wines of Burgundy. Take a premier cru Meursault, for example. These Chardonnays are fully equipped with delicate yet complex flavors, often showcasing notes of white flowers, citrus and a nuanced minerality. These dynamic elements create a beautiful and complex mouthfeel that lingers on the palate.

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The Nebbiolo-based wines from Piedmont (Barolo and Barbaresco in particular) provide another exemplary illustration of the term. These wines are revered for their graceful combination of power and subtlety. Those classic dried red fruit aromas, surrounded by the notes of tar and roses, and a palate that seamlessly integrates the classic combination of robust tannins and vibrant acidity, boast elegance from start to finish.

The result is a wine that may be a bit restrained when young, but evolves gracefully over time—showcasing the inherent finesse that the wines of this region inherently possess.

In summary, elegant wines are an integral component of any well-curated wine cellar. You certainly won’t regret adding several to your collection.