Bottle Variation

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

bottle variation is one of the more tantalizing aspects of wine appreciation. ‘There are no great wines, just great bottles’, is a popular saying among connoisseurs. It is only to be expected with a product as sensitive to storage conditions as wine that bottles of the same wine will differ—perhaps because one has been exposed to higher temperatures or greater humidity. There can easily be a perceptible difference in quality and character between bottles from the very same case. subjectivity may play a part, as well as a difference in fill levels, but it is also possible that the individual wines were subtly different before they went into bottle, or were bottled under different conditions. It was not until the 1970s, for example, that it became commonplace for Bordeaux châteaux to ensure that a uniform blend was made before bottling; some of the world’s most artisanal producers still bottle by hand from cask to cask. Similarly, wines bottled on two different occasions may find themselves packed in the same case (although modern lot number marking provides more clues in this respect). corks can also contribute to bottle variation with individual bottles exhibiting odours from tca originating from the cork, and the ability of the cork seal to allow varying degrees of oxygen into bottles.