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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Last night we opened a bottle of high-end '99 Napa Cab. We have a case in the cellar and have enjoyed several in the last six months. The wine was early maturing, with velvety tannins and significant settlement. Last night's bottle showed none of the maturity in taste or settlement. It wasn't tainted—just not nearly as good. What gives?
—Ken P., Denver
There are any number of possible explanations. Wines change and evolve, and occasionally they go through phases or periods in which they taste a little dull. There could be some bottle variation with this wine, or it could have had a bad cork that masked the flavors with a slight trace of trichloroanisole, or TCA.
But it's next to impossible to tell, because there are so many variables. Was the glassware exactly the same (and perfectly clean)? Was the serving temperature the same? Was the wine served with exactly the same type of food? Are you now (or were you then) on any medication that might have affected your taste buds?
No two bottles will bring the exact same experience, which is both the beauty of wine and the maddening part of it. The context of your life at the time you're drinking also brings countless variables into play—that's why wine always tastes better if someone else is paying for it.
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.