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What Does ‘Opulence’ Mean in Wine?

What Does ‘Opulence’ Mean in Wine?

The word “opulence,” a common wine descriptor, encompasses more than just aromas and flavors. It describes a lavishness, more vibe than quantifiable quality, that delivers an extravagant sensory experience. These wines evoke a warm and fuzzy feeling of richness and luxury. Imagine a big, plush velvety jacket—but in wine form—that coats your entire mouth with decadent flavors and textures.

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Opulence in wine is often associated with a profound depth of flavor. A wine’s opulence often will derive from the combination of a rich, creamy texture with concentrated fruit flavor and balanced notes of toasty oak and spice. Then, a lingering finish kicks in that can go on for minutes.

The term certainly evokes sumptuous language from those familiar with it. “Opulence reflects on an ample spectrum of quality factors, [including] terroir expression,” says Fernando Silva, advanced sommelier and wine director for the Glen Arbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, New York. “The balance of aromas or bouquet, oak usage and [more] are amplified by the grace of the winemaker’s gentle touch.”

These wines are often crafted from grapes of the highest quality, sourced from vineyards with optimal terroir. The vast majority of opulent wines hail from the world’s warmest wine regions, as heat is required to bring out robust fruit notes, higher levels of alcohol and firm yet velvety tannins.

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Most opulent wines are described as such in their youth. But they are well-suited for oak aging, too, as they have higher levels of fruit concentration, tannin and alcohol. This further contributes to the feeling of richness on the palate. As long as acidity—another component that contributes to an opulent mouthfeel—is there to provide balance, these bottles can evolve and improve in the cellar for years.

The bottom line? If you have ever been floored by the plush feel of a young, powerful, tannic Napa Cab or an expressive, luxurious, dense and full-bodied Amarone, then chances are you have experienced opulence in wine. Consider this your signal to start using the word “opulent” at the wine bar.

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