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03.03.2006

No Great Wines, Only Great Bottles

bottle_variation.jpgHere's an odd truth for you: you never really know how good a wine tastes, even after you've tasted it. The only way to truly understand whether a given wine is any good, and to evaluate just how good it is, is to try it many times. The reason? Something called bottle variation. It's not some insidious thing like cork taint, but subtle and even large differences can exist between two seemingly identical bottles of wine, as any perceptive person who regularly purchases wines in larger quantities can tell you.

Most pronounced the older a wine gets (age tends to magnify bottle variation as well as simply provide more time for things to happen to a bottle), differences in bottles can be due to factors in how the wine was made and bottled, how it was shipped, or how it was stored.

The more wine I drink, and especially the more I sample older vintages, the more I realize how often there are differences by bottle.

In any case, Dan Berger has written a simple overview of the subject today in the Napa Valley Register that is worth checking out.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.