Have you heard of bottleshock? Maybe you only heard of the movie with Chris Pine and Snape from Harry Potter about the Judgement of Paris. If you haven’t watched it, I wouldn’t whole heartedly recommend it as a great movie, but it is an interesting and warm hearted movie to cozy up to with a glass of Chardonnay.
I’m talking about the actual science in the bottle causing bottle shock. I often compare blending a wine to a marriage. It takes some time for the couple to fall into a routine and be comfortable with each other. Same thing with a wine. If you take a wine that has been nice in cozy in the barrel for a year or two or more, then throw in another wine… well it gets a little upset. Each needs to learn which side of the bed the other is going to sleep on, who is going to do the shopping, maybe even teach that one to keep putting the seat down! But over time, as long as the winemaker made a good choice, they find their way to live harmoniously together.
This is why blending should be done some time prior to bottling. We tend to blend our wine about three weeks prior to bottling. And that may or may not be enough time depending on the vintage and the blend. So we hold back the wine for a bit after bottling to make sure it is a marriage in made in heaven.
Bottleshock is thought of most commonly when the wine is just bottles. However, it can happen after wine that has been bottled for a while has traveled over a long distance. It is a period of time when the wine is not at its best. It’s aromas seem to be muted and the flavors are not as vibrant as they could be. They kind of seem like one big hodge podge of taste. The wine doesn’t have any depth to it.
I remember our very first vintage in 2013. We bottled the wine and I took two bottles off the line. The very first bottle and the last bottle. When we got home that night, we popped the last bottle and raised a glass in happiness. Then we tasted the wine. OH MY GOD! It was nothing. It wasn’t per se bad, and it wasn’t good. It was just there. I think I cried.. No, I know I cried. After the emotion passed, we hoped it was bottleshock. We tried to put it out of our minds and waited a month before tasting again. And it was a whole different wine. Full of flavors and aromas and worthy of 91 points in Wine Enthusiast. So, yeah it happens!
If you forget for a moment that wine is a liquid and go to to the core that it is made up of chemicals, such as phenolics and tannins, you can imagine how the wine may get a bit upset while traveling. I think about it as after being on a rollercoaster. You know that feeling when you drop and your stomach is still up. That to me is what bottle shock must be to the wine. It’s kind of a weird feeling. You know something isn’t right, but after a bit of time, your stomach catches up to your body and you are fine. (of course unless you are someone who gets sick on them – I don’t think it’s that bad!)
The only cure for bottle shock is time. Keep in mind that this is not a permanent thing. The wine will find its way back. All those molecules will find their place and will once again be the best that they can be. The saddest part is you just need to have a little patience and not open that bottle as soon as you get home from cross country or another country.
The other thing to keep in mind is that not every bottle goes through bottle shock and honestly I don’t think anyone knows a way to predict if a bottle will or won’t go through it. It’s a little Russian roulette when you open a freshly bottled wine or a newly arrived bottle.
Have you experienced bottle shock? Did you have another bottle to enjoy at a later date? Let me know your experience with bottle shock in the comments.
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