September 10, 2008

Gas Versus No Gas

For this experiment, we uncorked and tasted two bottles of Bodegas Olivares, Altos de la Hoya, Jumilla Monastrell, 2006, detecting no discernible difference between the two wines (see yesterday's tasting notes).

We poured off exactly 300 ml from each bottle. We sealed one with Private Preserve. The other we reclosed with a Vacuvin pump. Then we waited 72 hours before re-tasting the wines.

The idea behind both approaches is the same. Get rid of the oxygen. Either pump it out, or replace it with a heavier-than-air mix of oxygen-less gas. According to the Private Preserve website, their special blend is "pure air with no oxygen," a semantically challenged definition to be sure.

The wine preserved with inert gas had a beautiful nose, with no discernible fade. The pumped bottle, however, had slipped a little. There was also a warm-alcohol volatility present (even though both were poured after 10 minutes in the fridge). The pumped bottle was drinking well, no fade noted in the fruit. But the chalky, mineral finish had gone slightly bitter (no doubt from oxidation). On the palate, the gassed bottle was better again. There was a noticeable freshness to the fruit, especially when tasted side by side against the pump. The finish wasn't bitter, but -- and I'm not sure why -- the tannins seemed a little sharper, more pronouncedly green than both the prior tasting and the pumped bottle.

Neither device "failed" per se. The inert gas certainly seemed to outperform the pump in this trial, but the pumped bottle was still very drinkable, with only a slight fade in aroma and taste.

It is perhaps worth noting that the Lab has consistently argued the best approach to the dilemma of wine preservation is to avoid it altogether. If you drink the whole bottle, there's nothing to preserve.

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