Tuesday, October 5, 2010

When good wine seems bad, or, nibbling at some potential hocus pocus

Last week was a typical week weather wise here in the mid-west. One day it's sunny and clear, the next, cold and rainy. Temperatures were all over the map. I was mired in a series of 4 trade tastings in a row. One of my colleagues had noted that some people believe wines taste different on different days based on whether or not its a flower or root day. I had heard this, in fact, the buyers from Tesco (Large British Grocers) famously, only taste on whatever the right type of day it is. This led to a discussion about atmospheric conditions affecting the way wines show. I had never knowingly experienced this phenomenon, but it sounded like maybe it's not impossible. We then went to set up the tasting for that day. Nearly 100 bottles were opened. We discovered through the course of the day, nearly a dozen were flat out corked-considering a pretty good smattering of stelvin and vinoloks, this was a lot by any industry standard. Couple that with the fact that most were higher end wines from relatively modern winemaking facilities-this was a very significant outlier. I had just done 2 tasting in the days before, with about half as many wines, and only 2 corked bottle in the 2 days combined. The next day, again, about 50 wines, none corked. Now, I'm all about the Infinite Monkey Theorem, but this seemed more than coincidental. The bad day, was raining cold and obviously a low pressure day barometrically speaking. In addition to the corked bottles, I kept finding wines that I really know well, to be showing really tight and unforgiving. Next day, everything was fine, and it was a beautiful day.

I need to go on record as saying that I am a cynic. I would have likely dismissed all of this and you wouldn't be reading about it if I hadn't seen something like this first hand. The power of suggestion can be a powerful thing though. On the othe rhand, we've all seen wines we know and love, acting not quite the they did when we first fell in love with them. My question for you is: What do you think? Every experienced anything like this? Flower or Root? Barometric pressure? Humidity? Moon Phase? What is it? And to really make you think, is that variable actually affecting the wine or our finely tuned palate?


  1. Adam

    Atmospheric pressure, humidity and ambient temperatures have a tremendous impact on the aromas of a wine and probably flavors as well.
    It's a matter of physics and physiology (which depends on physics in large part).
    As for flower and root days and which direction the sparrows flew at sunrise....
    Mmmmmmmm..... not so much.....

  2. Adam
    I completely agree, and am pretty sure that there is science to back up my
    observations. There may well be "biodynamic" explanations as well, if that's
    how you roll.....
    They (the differences) reveal themselves most obviously when one tastes (as
    I do, as a wholesaler) the same wines on different occasions while
    presenting them to clients, on different days with different
    barometric/weather conditions, and within such a short time span that the
    wines themselves could not possibly change that much. I have been
    discussing this with a few buyers, who notice the same thing.
    Many folks don't pay attention to this. Great topic.
    Clay H.

  3. "Nearly 100 bottles were opened...nearly a dozen were flat out corked...I had just done 2 tasting in the days before, with about half as many wines, and only 2 corked bottle in the 2 days combined. The next day, again, about 50 wines, none corked...this seemed more than coincidental."

    It could just be coincidence. While the sample size of the wines tasted was very large, the sample size of the other key variables - weather and tasters - was only 3 in the case of weather and a few (you didn't say how many) in the case of individual tasters. Plus there was interaction among the tasters.

    Interesting posting though, I know I have "off" tasting days, but never considered whether it relates to external conditions like the weather.