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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.

Comments (6)

tduchesne wrote:
03.04.06 at 6:13 AM

Interesting Article. I read something similar from Matt Kramer over at Wine Spectator. The question I aalways raise is how many different bottles of a wine can you taste before you muddle through the bottle variation and get down to the true essence of wine? He suggested four, and I think somehwere between that and half a case is probably the answer. Also, do you think as (hopefully) more wineries move towards alternate closures, that it would help bottle variation?

Iris wrote:
03.04.06 at 9:37 AM

You'll find that difference especially in wines brought up in barriques - a famous domaine de Burgundy where they practice bottling with something called "a goat", even admits differences among the bottles of one unique barrique the first bottles don't have the same taste as the last ones. Normally they put together 5 barrels into one tank before bottling, but if there are more than 5, there will always be a difference.
So it's not a question of "faults" due to storing or cork or whatsoever, but simply "individual" character of wines brought up in a natural way.

nnsoren wrote:
03.05.06 at 7:18 AM

My personal observation has been the same wine drunk in the restaurant almost always tastes better than when tasted at home. Anybody else has the same experience?

Alder wrote:
03.05.06 at 8:14 PM


Thanks for the comments. Lots of things in my experience affect the way a wine tastes, including serving temperature, the food it is served with, and the company it is enjoyed with. Sometimes all of those things are different (better) at restaurants, though not always and not as a rule.

I do have some very specific examples of wines that tasted way better out of my cellar than when purchased at a restaurant.

fun seanny wrote:
03.10.06 at 1:40 PM


ive actually found it to be the other way around. i think its because i wind up paying 2.5 times what id normally spring at the shop. psychology wins again!

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