Tim Finn, of the Neudorf winery on New Zealand's South Island, told me about an experiment he had run. Planning his trip to the Pinot Noir seminars that he and his fellow vintners periodically hold, he plucked two bottles of his Moutere Pinot Noir 1998 off the bottling line. One he sent to where the seminar was being held, and there it rested. The other travelled with him, getting shaken about on the way. When he presented the two, his pals crowed over the "rested" bottle. The one that had travelled with Tim had them flummoxed trying to work out what was wrong with it.
The story is important to UK consumers because of our grab-and-glug drinking habits. We drink over 90 per cent of our wine within a day of purchase, and much of it goes straight from bag to dinner table.
Does it suffer from shaking? To find out, I conducted my own experiment on a captive group of wine buyers and sommeliers. I bought two bottles of Ravenswood Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 and left them in peace and quiet for 24 hours. The next evening, I opened one without further ado. The second I subjected to a gentle shake - approximately equivalent, I hoped, to a trip home from the place of purchase. When I presented the wines for blind tasting, I said only that they were similar. What differences, if any, could my tasters spot?
The results broadly confirmed Tim Finn's findings. All my guinea pigs thought the wines "incredibly similar" but only one came anywhere close to guessing that they might be the same wine. The others found discernible differences.
I haven't been able to track down a convincing explanation of why wine dislikes shaking, though I assume that it has to do with the interaction of oxygen with soluble solids and tannins. There's a well-known wine phenomenon called bottling sickness, sometimes caused by violent filling of the bottle, which I'm sure is a close relation of the shaking problem.
Chris Hardy, wine buyer for Majestic, doubts that most drinkers would spot the difference between a shaken and unshaken wine. Maybe he's right, but the one civilian on my panel said that the shaken wine smelled "vinegary". The pros noted that it had lost its fresh, fruity sweetness on the palate. Mr Hardy has noticed that his company's wines taste better once they've rested for a couple of days. At Majestic, you are unlikely to buy a bottle that's been sitting in peace for less than a month.
My advice? Leave your wine to rest for at least half an hour after getting it home. Keep the bottle upright on its journey. And if you're buying fancy wines, let them relax for a couple of days before opening.
Feel free to try my experiment at home. Neudorf Pinot is arriving soon; it's heaven on earth, and almost unobtainable. The Wine Society has the largest supplies, available to members for around £18 a bottle. Or try it with a cheaper bottle, such as the big, spicy Chateau Chenaie 1997, FaugÃ¿res (Laytons, £6.36). I'd leap at the Neudorf if I were you. But if you leap, leave the bottle on the table.Reuse content