When Your Favorite Wine Tastes Strange, Perhaps You Should Blame the Weather
– by Terry Robards
During the Piedmont tasting in Alba in the spring, I was reminded of the profound impact that weather conditions can have on wines, especially the big reds that are typical of this part of Italy.
We were tasting the superb 1997 Barolos one afternoon when a thunder storm passed through, bringing the falling barometric pressure that always accompanies a storm front. After the storm passed and the sun came out, indicating that the barometer was now moving upward, the wines were noticeably different.
They were still the big reds that we tasted before and during the storm, but now they seemed much brighter and fruitier, with the acids and tannins in much better balance. I have noticed this phenomenon time and again during a lifetime of tasting: falling pressure causes the fruit in wine to be less perceptible and accentuates tannins and acidity, while rising pressure does just the opposite.
It also emphasizes how careful professional tasters must be when evaluating wine. The weather must always be considered, so that the benefit of the doubt can be given when a wine, especially a big red, is being scored while the barometer is falling. Whites and lighter reds seem less susceptible to changing pressure, although it does affect them as well.
This phenomenon raises some troubling questions. For example, when I see a wine with a surprisingly low rating in one of the many wine magazines and newsletters, a wine that I have found much superior to that rating, was a was a weather front passing through when it was being evaluated? How often are wines downgraded simply because the taster or tasters failed to consider barometric pressure?
Does the phenomenon explain why some wines do not seem to travel well, why that Sancerre that tasted so good on a bright and sunny afternoon in the Loire Valley seemed so disappointing when tasted on a rainy day in New York? The problem was probably the weather, not the travel.
All of us who are in the business of evaluating wines must be forever watchful of the barometer and must always give benefit of the doubt when a wine or a group of wines fails to measure up to expectations.