When is an old wine put in a new bottle to make it better or different? I don’t know- to the best of my knowledge-never. One of the biggest problems that hurt the wine consumption is the problem of oxidation. No matter, how perfect the conditions of transferring a bottle are safeguarded against oxidation; even the slightest of exposure to air is likely to bruise the wine. Therefore, it would be silly to dream of putting any old wine in a new bottle.
As clarification, slow micro-oxygenation does take place in the bottle through the cork-which is desirable for evolution in the bottle and helps it mature. In fact, opponents of screwcaps maintain that this is not possible without the corks which have micro-sized pours, and hence do not take favourably to discarding corks for age-worthy red wines (although Australia and New Zealand have been consistently and successfully working to dismantle this belief).
In several cases of fine quality aging wines cork might need replacement after 10-20 years as the minor evaporation of alcohol may make the topping up desirable. Penfolds Grange and Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino may be just a couple of random examples where the old wine of the same vintage is used to top up the bottle. But this is done under highly controlled, anaerobic conditions where there is no oxygen and in the same old bottle.
The origin of old wine in a new bottle could have made a short- term sense when the bottles came to be used and as wine moved from the cask-era to bottling era, when the old wine in the casks might have been put in a bottle-for transportation.
Any speculation from the readers would be welcome.
On Brewing Wine
A statement reportedly by the Karnataka horticulture secretary SG Hegde yesterday left me slightly bewildered, with a strange after-taste in my mouth. “At least two years are required to brew wine. Hence, promoting wine tourism would also take time” he is reported to have said in Bangalore on the eve of the opening of Bangalore International Wine Festival today. He might as well have invited ‘vinos’ to come to drink wine (Read my earlier blog about vinos- they have nothing to do with love for wine)
I wondered why he did not use the word ‘distill’ for processing of grapes to make wine. Beer is brewed. Tea and coffee may be brewed- but trouble is brewing if people start to describe the grape fermentation as brewing. And one wonders how wine can ‘brew’ for TWO years. I don’t know about Bangalore, but in the rest of the world, wine is made by fermenting grapes (or other fruits) for a period, normally lasting 10-14 days, though there are exceptions for the Nouveau wines like Beaujolais and some Italian reds, on one end and the slow fermentation for grapes that have been dried for a few months, making the water content lower, on the other end of the spectrum where it takes longer periods. (Apparently, the bureaucrat was referring to the minimum time from the planting of vine- to wine).
We ought to nip the misuse of wine terms in the bud –or we may end up drinking distilled wine-which is brandy. (Even the Italian grappa is made from distillation but the process is initiated from the must, left in the tank after removing the juices that are being fermented) or encourage some nouveau drinkers trying to actually transfer old wine into new bottle.