Journal | November 20, 2018
In some ways bottling is the worst thing that can happen to a wine. A youthful, delicate, expressive wine in barrel or tank will retreat into a shell of itself after bottling. This widely recognized phenomenon is known as bottle shock. Bottling can be very disruptive to a wine’s evolution. Wines that have been peacefully aging in the cellar under ideal conditions are pumped, sometimes filtered, pushed through spouts, splashed into glass, and then sealed with the powerful thrust of a plunged cork. Wouldn’t you too be a bit under the weather?
Over time a recently bottled wine will not only recover, but it will eventually become something even more beautiful than its humble cellar origins. At Linden we are finding that our wines need quite a lot of time to recover. The best guess is that because we don’t disturb our wines at all during “élevage” (aging in the cellar), they tend to close down more readily after the intrusive bottling.
This post-bottling stage has many useful descriptors: “tight, mute, quiet, backwards, shut down, and dumb” are a few examples. Recovery time seems to depend on the individual wine and the vintage. Rosé seems to defy the pattern and shows well soon after bottling. Chardonnay is very much about texture and can take several years to harmonize after bottling. Red wines don’t suffer as much as whites, but can still require even more time to get all their stuffing and integration back (we are now trying to give many of our red wines two years in the bottle before release).
Cooler vintages with higher acidities require more time in the bottle. Wines from warm vintages recover quickly. The cool 2014 vintage is only just now starting to show its stuff. Alternatively the warm 2016 vintage whites are ready to drink.
“Time is money” so the saying goes. I guess this bodes badly for our business model. But on the flip side, wines that take time to evolve are typically those with the longest lives giving the greatest rewards for those with patience. Next week I’ll write about wine’s aging potential.