ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

I recently came back from Paso Robles after having tasted and purchased many wonderful wines. After having opened and tasted some of these same wines again, I believe I have noticed somewhat of a difference in some of them. I assure you that I am very careful with respect to travelling and storing my treasures. Is it common to taste differences between bottles of identical wines? Or am I hallucinating?

—Vadim F., Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.

Dear Vadim,

I doubt you're hallucinating—I have also experienced the phenomenon of wine tasting better when on vacation than when I'm back at home. There's something to be said for context. It's like how a love song can bring you to tears, but only if you have broken heart.

Your enjoyment of wine definitely can depend on the circumstances surrounding the particular glass, and even what kind of glassware you use. Other things that can affect a wine's enjoyment include if you're eating (and if so, what kind of food), if it's a blind tasting or not, or even if you tasted the wine in a lineup of other wines versus just opening a single bottle. There are countless variables that can be at play—from barometric pressure to medication you've taken—and of course, bottle variation, including flawed bottles.

As maddening as all of that might seem, it can also be one of the greatest sources of wine's pleasure. Some of my favorite wine memories haven't been from wine poured in the best glassware at the perfect temperature with the classic food pairing, but rather enjoyed in a plastic cup at a picnic, sipped while standing on a freezing rooftop or paired with junk food at a baseball game.

—Dr. Vinny


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