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The Impact of Bottle Size on Wine Aging

January 03, 2013

The Impact of Bottle Size on Wine AgingConventional wisdom says magnums of wine develop more slowly than 750ml bottles. The smaller the bottle, the more rapid aging is assumed to occur. We rarely test this theory in a completely objective manner though. Recently, I did.

I joined a dozen other wine writers for a blind tasting at Ridge Vineyards. Nine wines were poured blind from decanters in three flights of three. We were given no information at all about any of the wines., We assumed them to be produced by Ridge.

Most of us correctly identified the first set of wine as being Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, but we had a hard time being more specific. They had strong similarities: black cherry, blackberry and spice were prominent in each. Structure was nearly:  medium+ body, medium+ to high acidity and medium+ chalky tannins.

There were clear also differences and seemed to be varying amounts of age, but not enough to strongly suggest we were tasting a three-year vertical. Were these blending trial samples with slightly different varietal blends, vineyard blocks or barrel treatments?

Wine #1 seemed youngest, it’s color tinged with purple. The nose was boisterous with the most obvious oak influence, sweeter fruit and more vanilla. It wanted further aging.

Wine #2 was more open and nuanced. Oak was well-integrated, vanilla not noteworthy. It was fully ready-to-drink, yet had the structure and depth of fruit to develop nicely for several years.

Wine #3 was both the most refined and expressive. It had come together completely, but didn’t exhibit any tertiary aromas or flavors.

Later, we learned all three wines were 2009 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, the current release, from 1.5l, 750ml and 375ml bottles respectively. After just 21 months in bottle, there were clear differences in development due to format.

Have you experienced a difference in wine aging based on bottle size?

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