I'll be the first to admit that I have, at best, the palate of a highly experienced amateur. I can tell an IPA from a Stout from a Doppelbock primarily on the common visual, olfactory, and above all else tastes that are found throughout any example of each style. However, while I've had many delightful 'Saisons' in my time as a drinker of beer, I've never been able to get a straight answer about what characteristics define the style. The best I've ever been able to get is vague handwavey historical notions about the beers role as a 'refreshing summer ale'.
Which is... somewhat unsatisfying to someone who would hope that the term might actually mean something. So, does it? If so, what? If I pick up a Saison from a brewery I've never heard of, what characteristics should I expect it to exhibit that earn it the name?