Bottle variation is the degree to which different
bottles, nominally of the same wine, taste and smell different.
There are many causes of bottle variation, some relating to the wine, some to its container and some to storage. Before the advent of inexpensive
stainless steeltanks, it was not customary to blend all the wine together and bottle it at once, a process called "assemblage". Instead, the winemakerwould take his or her siphonfrom barrel to barrel and fill the bottles from a single barrel at a time. Some traditional and/or idiosyncratic wineriesstill do this, including Chateau Musar. Also, buyers and sellers of bulk winetypically do not have access to a multi-million litre tank, and so often the wine will vary depending on which tank it came from.
Bottle variation that increases over time typically comes from the packaging. Exposure to heat or light can cause a wine to mature more quickly or even make it taste "cooked". Bottles aged in the chilly
cellars of Sweden's alcohol monopoly are famous for tasting younger than the same wine stored at a more typical 13 °C (55 °F). Finally, not all corks seal equally well, and a faulty cork will allow air into the bottle, oxidizingit prematurely. However, a corked wine would be described as a simple fault rather than bottle variation, even though the corked bottle would be clearly different from a non-corked example.
Sometimes, it is not clear what causes the variation. Bottles stored together their entire lives, with no obvious faults, can taste completely different. Thus there is a saying, "There are no great old wines, only great bottles."
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