by Greg Allen on April 22, 2013
Excuse me, that’s a provocative title for a wine seminar! Earlier this month I had the pleasure of defending just that concept in the context of Dolce. Pebble Beach Food & Wine afforded the opportunity for me to share the 2001 Dolce from three bottle sizes, ranging from 375ml, 750ml up to the magnum (1.5L), with about 80 guests.
The wines were fabulous! The 2001 vintage is rich with apricot flavors and honeyed, silky texture. And the expression proved true: the smaller bottles showed more of a perfume of stone fruits yet the magnum retained an earthy and mineral quality that was notably stronger.
Why? If I can put on my propeller-hat and make a scientific observation, I would suggest that the effects of oxidation were less noticeable in the larger bottle because subtle aroma notes were reductive in nature. I venture it’s all driven by oxygen ingress at bottling or over the lifetime in the bottle thereafter. It’s with some certainty that I feel the greatest oxygen insult to wine occurs on the bottling line – not afterward, but that’s the subject of a book, not blog.
I have two hunches: (1) each bottle, no matter the size, receives the same exposure to oxygen during the bottling process. And, (2) given that the 375ml, 750ml and magnum bottles all have roughly the same geometry in the neck and with the cork, it’s reasonable to assume that the factors which influence oxygen ingress over time are about the same for all three bottle sizes. (Hunch #2 can be forgotten if there are significant temperature fluctuations during storage … but that’s another story, too.)
The concept we should all remember is that the 750ml has twice as much volume as the 375ml, and that for the magnum is four-fold greater than the 375ml. If the same amount of oxygen is introduced to the bottle early in its lifetime, then it’s simply the increasing volumes which dilute the effects of oxygen over time. Simply put, I would expect the 750ml to age twice as slowly as the 375ml, and the magnum four times as slowly. Of course, I assume that the storage conditions are ideal and the differences from cork to cork are small.
Enough. The wines were lovely, and I was pleased to see that the 2001 is still youthful in its fruit expression. I am confident that it will continue to age gracefully for years to come.
The Dolce display at Far Niente shows wines in a variety of bottle sizes (375ml – 3L) and in a variety of vintages. As Dolce ages, the color turns from honey to a rich amber.