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Tim York

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What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Tim York » Sun Jan 20, 2008 6:29 am

I have often wondered but I am prompted to ask the question by the finish yesterday on the remains of a bottle of Palo Cortado "Obisco Gascon" - Barbadillo. Although on the first day this sherry had more bloom, it remained very fine and I could still sense its lovely aromas some 30 minutes after the meal. I have met the same thing before following an outstanding wine at the end of a tasting. The Palo Cortado was the last thing consumed and therefore could linger but, nevertheless, 45 seconds (however measured) sounds mighty short for a fine finish.

The only thing I can think of is that this is the time Parker allows before going on to the next sip at his marathon tastings. Those that don't rate a timing must be short indeed.
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Ian Sutton » Sun Jan 20, 2008 10:53 am

AFAIK it's the length of time a wine's flavour persists in the mouth after swallowing or spitting. IMO it's overly specific and geeky, applying pseudo science to something (wine-tasting) that does not warrant it, nor benefit from it.

No problem with broader terms (long finish, abrupt finish etc.), linked to a description of the style, flavours, character of that finish.

I've never timed the length of finish and never will. It's maybe a bit like timing yourself during sex :wink:
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Robin Garr » Sun Jan 20, 2008 11:16 am

Ian Sutton wrote:AFAIK it's the length of time a wine's flavour persists in the mouth after swallowing or spitting. IMO it's overly specific and geeky, applying pseudo science to something (wine-tasting) that does not warrant it, nor benefit from it.

I agree in principle, but in fairness, it should be noted that Parker didn't invent this concept: Timing the finish is a long-standing principle of French wine-tasting, and there's even a term for it: caudalie, or "tail."
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Tim York » Sun Jan 20, 2008 11:33 am

Robin Garr wrote:
Ian Sutton wrote:AFAIK it's the length of time a wine's flavour persists in the mouth after swallowing or spitting. IMO it's overly specific and geeky, applying pseudo science to something (wine-tasting) that does not warrant it, nor benefit from it.

I agree in principle, but in fairness, it should be noted that Parker didn't invent this concept: Timing the finish is a long-standing principle of French wine-tasting, and there's even a term for it: caudalie, or "tail."


Robin, I am quite happy with the concept of "length", "tail", "abrupt finish", etc. and, in principle, I think Ian has well described what it is intended to mean. I do, however, object to the spurious accuracy of such timings because, inter alia, of the difficulty in deciding where the cut-off comes. What timing would Parker have given to my Palo Cortado? I guess that, within that half hour or so, he would have tasted a dozen or two other wines.

Incidentally I have never seen any finish timings given in French wine criticism.
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Robin Garr » Sun Jan 20, 2008 11:44 am

Tim York wrote:I do, however, object to the spurious accuracy of such timings because, inter alia, of the difficulty in deciding where the cut-off comes. What timing would Parker have given to my Palo Cortado? I guess that, within that half hour or so, he would have tasted a dozen or two other wines.

Oh, I fully agree, Tim! I wasn't debating your position, or Ian's, at all. Just adding a little background trivia about caudalie and observing that this principle rests on just such purportedly precise timing.

Incidentally I have never seen any finish timings given in French wine criticism.

You know, I don't think I've seen it practiced in my presence, either, but I've read about it often. Maybe it's an older custom that has largely died out? It does seem to me, though, that I've seen it used occasionally in French TNs. Possibly Guide Hachette?
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Cynthia Wenslow » Sun Jan 20, 2008 12:18 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:It's maybe a bit like timing yourself during sex :wink:


Robin Garr wrote:caudalie, or "tail."


Hmm. I sense a theme.... :wink:
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by David M. Bueker » Sun Jan 20, 2008 12:20 pm

It's highly unlikely that Parker actually uses a stopwatch. He is more likely (and I have seen him do this in person at a dinner/tasting) giving a rough idea of length of finish just to emphasize how good the wine is.

In other words - you are taking him too literally.
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Bob Ross » Sun Jan 20, 2008 12:46 pm

The WLP Lexicon has a good definition: The time that the "finish" or "aftertaste" (see above) persists in the mouth; generally, the greater the length, the better the wine. The French actually quantify it, using the term "Caudalie," with one unit of Caudalie equivalent to one second of length. See also "lingering, long" below.

When I first started drinking wine seriously in 1995 there were a number of books that wrote about the concept, Johnson in particular who expressed the thought the longer the finish, the better the wine -- you got more for your money, provided the wine tasted good if it had a long finish.

I actually counted the seconds while I thought the finish persisted -- the first six months of my notes have many entries like this:

8/6/95 NV Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot Number Fourteen Sonoma County California. Wonderful aroma, full of fruit and spice, heavy in the air. Beautiful deep color; spice and fruit on the palate, but more acid than Lot 15, which both Janet and I preferred. 15 second finish with lots of fruit and spice, some acid, low tannin. 4*.

I discovered Parker in September of that year, and was very surprised to see that he rarely quantified the number of seconds even though up to 20 of his points were given for taste and length of finish. "Over 45 seconds", "over a minute" were as precise as he got. I found through a frequency analysis of his words -- 20,000 notes -- that he only quantified finish times for wines he rated 100, or in a couple of cases, 99.

So, I stopped counting because of Parker. :)

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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Ian Sutton » Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:16 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:It's highly unlikely that Parker actually uses a stopwatch. He is more likely (and I have seen him do this in person at a dinner/tasting) giving a rough idea of length of finish just to emphasize how good the wine is.

In other words - you are taking him too literally.

Possibly, or he is writing too literally :wink:

Indeed I think it is a common failing that people do take Parker much too literally. "That's a 98 point wine! - wow it MUST be good and I MUST like it". Part of that is down to his writing style, which is confident and assertive. The pseudo precision also helps him establish that aura of being an exceptionally good and precise taster.

In fairness though my comment wasn't a bash at Parker - just the (seemingly growing) habit of implying such precision amongst wine enthusiasts.

... and if I were being cheeky, I'd say that Parker is such a good taster then he'd be more accurate than any stopwatch :lol: :wink:

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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Steve Slatcher » Sun Jan 20, 2008 2:53 pm

Peynaud, in The Taste of Wine quotes Vedel as saying that the "intense aromatic persistence" is roughly uniform for a while, and then drops off suddenly. And he writes that a caudalie is one second of persistence. He also says that Burgundian writers propose using caudalies as a standard way of comparing wines of different styles, dividing all wines into 5 classes: <=3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12 and >12 caudalies. Peynaud himself seems to be sceptical.

So on this sort of scale, Parker's 45 second and Tim's 30 minute wines would be pretty impressive! It seems that different things are being discussed.
Last edited by Steve Slatcher on Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Bob Ross » Sun Jan 20, 2008 3:53 pm

Thanks, Steve. I was reading Peynaud in early 1995 and probably picked up the idea there. My notes were usually in the 5 to 15 second ranges.
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Marco Raimondi » Sun Jan 20, 2008 5:40 pm

... and in addition to the length of the "tail" or "caudalie" (the finish), there is the quality, complexity, or depth of the tail: "queu de paon" or "peacock's tail" to describe how the flavors/aromas not only persist, but echo and fan out (like a peacock's tail) on the palate and in the olfactory senses. The term "peacock's tail" is often used to describe the complex finish of great pinot noirs (esp. Burgundies). Michael Broadbent used this term a lot.
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Hoke » Sun Jan 20, 2008 10:34 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:It's highly unlikely that Parker actually uses a stopwatch. He is more likely (and I have seen him do this in person at a dinner/tasting) giving a rough idea of length of finish just to emphasize how good the wine is.

In other words - you are taking him too literally.


I dunno, David: how can we be taking the man 'too literally'? He's the one who enshrined the precise finality of assessing wines according to the 100-point scale, so when he writes something like "45 seconds", I assume he meant to be quite precise in his statement. Now, if he had said 'long', 'lingering', 'stretched out', 'persistent', or some such, okay. But "45 seconds"? That tells me either he meant to be precise or he was being a questionable critic.

Ah, well, once you start down that road of quantifying every little thing... :)
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Tim York » Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:07 am

Bob Ross wrote:The WLP Lexicon has a good definition: The time that the "finish" or "aftertaste" (see above) persists in the mouth; generally, the greater the length, the better the wine. The French actually quantify it, using the term "Caudalie," with one unit of Caudalie equivalent to one second of length. See also "lingering, long" below.

When I first started drinking wine seriously in 1995 there were a number of books that wrote about the concept, Johnson in particular who expressed the thought the longer the finish, the better the wine -- you got more for your money, provided the wine tasted good if it had a long finish.




Thanks for that, Bob. So it is the French who are responsible for this. Maybe measuring "caudalies" still flourishes in French oenological faculties and sommelier schools. However, to their credit, none of the French wine writers whom I read and respect, e.g. Bettane, Desseauve, Burtschy, Poussier, go in for this sort of spurious precision, although some of the vocabulary is used. And it looks as if Parker with his "more than one minute" is a fairly moderate practitioner of this quantification concept; it would be better if he did not use it at all.

I sense some scepticism in this thread about my reported half-hour aromatic after-glow of Palo Cortado. I remain unrepentant. No doubt, the "caudalie" adepts would have some definition of when to stop the stop-watch but the need for this in the presence of a continuing after-glow discredits any quantification for me.

BTW, I do not always find lingering finishes positive. Some cloying wines have a lingering after-glow which I find unpleasant.
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by David M. Bueker » Mon Jan 21, 2008 8:52 am

Hoke wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:It's highly unlikely that Parker actually uses a stopwatch. He is more likely (and I have seen him do this in person at a dinner/tasting) giving a rough idea of length of finish just to emphasize how good the wine is.

In other words - you are taking him too literally.


I dunno, David: how can we be taking the man 'too literally'? He's the one who enshrined the precise finality of assessing wines according to the 100-point scale, so when he writes something like "45 seconds", I assume he meant to be quite precise in his statement. Now, if he had said 'long', 'lingering', 'stretched out', 'persistent', or some such, okay. But "45 seconds"? That tells me either he meant to be precise or he was being a questionable critic.



Now you're just being a pest. :wink:

Indeed Robert Parker popularized the 100 point scale, but the public ate it up (from the WA and other sources), so there's no sense in blaming Parker. To me it's no different than blaing McDonald's for people being fat - don't eat the fries. Parker himself has said that at least the top end of the range is as much emotional as analytical.

If you look at a number of Parker's reviews you don't see things like "a 27 second finish" or "a 52 second finish" the way you see 87 and 93 point scores, but rather widely spaced intervals (10, 30, 45 seconds, a minite, two minutes), so in context there's little specificity.
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Hoke » Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:13 pm

I sense some scepticism in this thread about my reported half-hour aromatic after-glow of Palo Cortado. I remain unrepentant. No doubt, the "caudalie" adepts would have some definition of when to stop the stop-watch but the need for this in the presence of a continuing after-glow discredits any quantification for me.


No,, no, Tim. We're just really impressed. That's some serious tail you got there buddy. Most of us are just envious, thassall.

(I did hear Stuart go on about a Rotie that lasted all night long, but we generally discount most of Stuart's stories.)
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Ian Sutton » Mon Jan 21, 2008 6:09 pm

Hoke wrote:No,, no, Tim. We're just really impressed. That's some serious tail you got there buddy. Most of us are just envious, thassall.

:shock: :shock: We are still on a wine forum aren't we :shock: :shock:

:wink:
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Ian Sutton » Mon Jan 21, 2008 6:15 pm

As an adjunct to this, we finished off the remnants of a bottle of Ferngrove Cossack Riesling 2002 (Western Australia) at the weekend - incidentally I should have posted a 'value wine' note as it's stonking value.

anyway, after we finish the glass, we open a bottle of a too youthful Dao red from Portugal (Quinta da Garrida 2004 IIRC). The thing is, each time I bring the glass to my lips my mind is thinking of the previous wine and how vibrant and appetising it was. In my mind I was (almost) still drinking the previous wine!
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Re: What does Parker mean by "a 45 second finish"?

by Hoke » Mon Jan 21, 2008 8:29 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:
Hoke wrote:No,, no, Tim. We're just really impressed. That's some serious tail you got there buddy. Most of us are just envious, thassall.

:shock: :shock: We are still on a wine forum aren't we :shock: :shock:

:wink:


Yeahbut, I blame Cynthia and Stuart for bringing us all down to the vulgar plane. I'm just a facilitator. :twisted:

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