I started collecting wine seriously in 2012. Apart from enjoying the wine, I am interested in finding out for myself whether the things people say about wine—that it ages, that you should let it breathe, that you must keep it at a certain temperature—are true. Over the last few years I have conducted various experiments to find out. Here I will describe my very first experiment, conducted in the summer of 2014.
In 2014, I left a bottle of 2012 Cascina Chicco Barbera d’Alba Granera Alta out in the Arizona heat all summer (100º–110º F). I had another bottle of the same wine in my temperature controlled storage facility (about 60º F). In November I did a blind tasting with my wife and another couple. The abused bottle had a wrinkled label, so I wrapped the bottles in pink tissue paper; once the corks were removed you couldn’t tell the difference. (In the photo the abused bottle is on the right.) Since I was the one who removed the corks I asked my wife to go into another room and, on the toss of a coin, either swap the bottles or not. Each guest had two glasses and was served from the two bottles in the same order.
Amazingly, the wine left out in the sun was drinkable. One of my guests could not tell the difference between it and the properly stored wine, and all agreed that the difference was subtle. I found that the abused wine was fruitier and lacking in acid, with harsher tannins, and a spicier aroma. The properly stored wine had more structure. It also had a slightly funky mulchy element to the nose. It was a much better food wine because of the acid; the abused wine was insipid during the meal. But it was quite drinkable, and preferred by two of my guests who like a softer style of wine.
This summer I am conducting the same experiment with a white burgundy, which I will write up in the fall.