It’s probable that every one of us has had the experience of a wine that tastes different from glass to glass over an evening. We call the phenomenon evolving, and by that, we generally mean that the wine evolves. But could it be that the taster is also evolving?
Surely, exposure to oxygen changes a wine; how much and how fast it changes I suppose is determined by the wine and the amount of oxygen to which it is exposed. But it’s highly possible that as the wine changes, so, too, does our perceptive capacity.
Maybe something volatile in the wine’s aroma that is subdued by time also hits a threshold point that subdues our aroma receptors. Or maybe what we taste first is still slightly closed; opened, it may offer more, but what if that excessive offering happens to land on a dull palate? Will it make for a good or a bad perception?
These kinds of concerns (and further myriad possibilities) may prevent from ever producing a definitive answer or an answer that even satisfies. You’d have to track every oxygen molecule and every person in the room to do it!
What about the other perception phenomenon, the one where you taste a wine today that you had tasted two weeks ago from another bottle but within the same box, and the present taste seems quite different from the previous one? Is it that the wine has changed, the bottle is a variation, or is it something about you or the conditions that causes the change in perception? Or maybe after a lengthy time span you simply can’t recall a taste exactly .
This subject came up recently on the Robert Parker Web site (see link below). Along with the usual unsubstantiated opinions that many provide about wine-related phenomenon, the thread received many considered responses, some of which come with a tinge or at least the possibility of truth.
See if you agree or not, but reading the thread reinforces the conclusion I came to a long time ago: the reasons are many that cause us to remember a past taste as different from the present taste of the same wine. I don’t think it’s either a good or a bad thing—just the way things are.
What the variance tells me is to enjoy the wine in front of me, if I enjoy it, and dislike the wine in front of me, if I dislike it. That’s another way of repeating that, “there are no great wines, only great bottles of wine.”
Looking at this subject objectively, it’s obvious that collecting wine can produce future unintended disappointments. I’m so glad I stopped collecting wine.
Copyright Thomas Pellechia
May 2008. All rights reserved.