My first wine experiment

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.

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This summer I am conducting the same experiment with a white burgundy, which I will write up in the fall.

6 thoughts on “My first wine experiment

  1. Yep, I’ve also experimented a bit. My preliminary conclusion: most wine–but maybe not older bottles—is pretty resilient and stands up to abuse..
    Next research problem: can I turn some of my wine back into the money I paid for it

    –uri–

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  2. Barbera is quite acidic for a red. Given the salience of the “smoothness” scale for many people, the holistic preference is understandable. I liked your more analytic notes.

    I wonder what the chemistry was? Heat accelerates oxidation, I expect, some organically might break down. But “fruit” cooks when we make jam and still tastes good and fruity.

    I will try a related experiment tonight to celebrate your blog: Sonoma coast Pinot left in the back of my car in the sun for the weekend vs same wine well taken care of. Been resting a year since it’s sunny weekend. Half dozen tasters.

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  3. I have a more complicated setup now which I will describe in my next post. Basically give everybody 3 glasses, randomly chosen from the 6 possible configurations, and ask them to choose which one is not like the others (Sesame Street method).

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  4. Comparison of Lynmar “Old Vines” Quail Hill left in car (lic) over a weekend vs. same wine under proper care (pc). The weekend was sunny and in 70s during day, 60s at night. Temp probably reached 90s inside car in sun. Tasted last night, a year later. Tasters have familiarity with high end Sonoma coast Pinot like this.

    First impression was very similar, especially on palette. “Is this a trick?” I was relieved having a few more lic bottles in cellar.

    With time pc bottle opened up, intense cherry pie and spices, mouth got richer. Lic did not change. “This one (pc) makes the other seem flat.”
    “Vibrant, spicy, beautiful fruit” of pc. “Elegant, very nice wine” of lic.
    As time goes by, pc gets better and better, lic stays nice.

    Conclusion: if tasted without comparison, we would have thought lic unharmed. If tasted a week apart, most would probably not know the difference.
    With comparison, something very lovely was lost in the car that weekend, I would liken the difference to the same beautiful face with happy expression vs a whatever expression.

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  5. Pingback: Heat experiment no. 2: Shocking! | Wine Experiments

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