Duane Bowman wrote:Recently Jeff Leve described an experience with an '83 Margaux as: Tasted for the third time in two weeks. Each bottle has been different .....
Which lead me to a topic that I've been thinking about for some time now but never heard discussed. How wines bottled side by side and stored side by side can have very different flavor and aroma characteristics
Thanks for coming over and posting. You asked a bunch of good questions.
Variances are more likely to take place in older wines. Young wines should be relatively stable and offer the same experience. Mature wines are a different story. With older wines, two possibilities arise, cork and storage. Each cork allows a different level of seal. Bottle conditions from the same case can vary with time. I've opened older cases and some bottles have higher fill levels than other bottles. This is common with wines over 20 years old. Some corks offer a tight seal that doesn't allow much air to enter the bottle. Other corks from the same case don't fit as tightly. If air comes in, wine needs to leave to make room. The bottles that allowed more air to enter into the bottle caused the wine to evaporate at a faster rate. The ullage or fill level will change a bottles characteristics.
Storage definitely effects the condition of the wine, which make for a different tasting experience. Older bottles with high fill levels will show a wine that tastes younger and fresher. Wines with low fills will taste completely different.
The question of bottle-to-bottle variation in wines really is about how wine reviewers or critics account for it in their ratings. How does one give a wine a 93 while the next reviewer gives it an 87?
We've covered bottle variation. All tasters, professional and amateur alike can taste the same wine and come away with different impressions. We all have different preferences. For example, some tasters might find the scent of truffles in a wine off putting. Truffle is a common scent found in older Bordeaux. I love it! But for people who do not like that in a wine, they will score it lower. Experienced tasters will have individual ideas on what a wine should taste like. If a wine does not offer the sensations they think a wine should have, professional writers could downgrade the wine. Take 2009 Cos d'Estournel for example. For me, it is one of the top Bordeaux wines of the vintage. I posted 3-4 reviews on the wine already. I think it is a candidate to score 100 Pts when it's in bottle. A few people. professionals and friends of mine did not agree. They did not like wine. It's all about personal taste and expectations.
Are both reviewers really tasting the SAME wine? Will the consumer be tasting the SAME wine as either of those reviewers if/when they purchase it?
For young wines, yes. For older wines, probably not.
Is there a better way to review bottle variable wines than giving some simplistic score?
If you are reading a score and that's all that is offered in the review, throw that away. You need to read a detailed description on what the wine offers in taste and feel. It's the tasting note that counts. Regardless of a wine earning a high or low score, if you do not like the sound of the wine based on the descriptors being used, you are not going to like it. Perforce, if the adjectives being used are a turn on, you are prone to liking the wine.
How do we give "reliable guidance" to consumers when we're speaking of a product that varies in the very things consumers buy it for? Do we pretend bottle-to-bottle variation just doesn't exist?
Bottle variation should not come into play much with young wines. A review says as much about a wine as it does the writer. As for the quality of the wine writer, look at their body of work. Do you agree or disagree with the critics previous reviews more often than not. Track records matter.
I am not a professional wine critic. But I taste a lot of wine and write about it when I can. if you want an idea of what I like or not, there are almost 2,500 wine reviews on my site that you can read to determine the styles of wines I like or not.
Should reviewers say how many separate times they've tasted a particular wine to arrive at their review?
Why not? However, most notes are based on tasting the wine once or twice for each dated review. I hope this helped and that I answered your very good questions.
I look forward to seeing you over here more often.