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Wine Bottle

Wondering how long you can keep an open bottle of wine before it goes bad or why there is a dent in the bottom of a wine bottle? International consultant and winemaker, Dr Ariff Jamal answers all your questions about wine, big and small

I am wondering what the value of the label is on a collectable wine as part of the entire value. For example a 1947 Château Lafite Rothschild with a perfect label versus an imperfect (damaged) label. assuming that the wine has been properly stored and maintained in both cases. Dennis DiCarlo, Toronto, Canada
The condition of the label is often taken into consideration in determining a wine’s value. The label is considered ‘excellent’ only if it has a slight, nearly unnoticeable deficiency. On the other hand, if labels have been affected by movement while in their original case then these wines lose in value as the label is considered scuffed. Damaged labels can be lifted up or pushed back from their original position or if a noticeable rip is perceived, the damage affects the final value of the bottle. The most common flaw which leads to the devaluation of a collector’s bottle is when the label has writing on it that was not originally placed there by the producer or when the wine is stored in humid conditions over a long period of time and the label becomes mouldy, which then can also have a direct consequence on the condition of the wine itself.

Does a wine need to breathe?
Allowing a wine to breathe is often referred to as oxygenating or aerating the wine. This exercise is most vital as it permits the wine to communicate its primary and secondary aromas – which otherwise would be concealed, pronouncing the wine as “closed”. Younger wines need to breathe to reduce the ubiquitous tannin taste, while mature wines need the air for the expression of their character. Wines are usually bottled at their optimum level of freshness and thus excessive aeration could be detrimental to the wine. It’s a question of the best equation.

How long will a wine keep once it has been opened? 

Finish the bottle is the best recommendation. There are far too many parameters to handle; type of wine, age, method of production, storing facility before and after opening, temperature and storage conditions and so on.Once the wine has come into contact with air it begins to evolve – this progression could reach its peak level and drop flat immediately in an average span of two or three days. So three days would be really the maximum for most wines.

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Why does a wine bottle have a dent in the bottom?
Certainly not to cheat on the quantity of wine in the bottle! The standard wine bottle size contains 750ml with or without it. This concave dent is called a ‘punt’ and its depth defines the heaviness and quality of the bottle. Deep punted bottles are used for wines that are made to age.The deep punt has also become a method of handling the bottle, with the thumb placed in it and the fingers wrapped around the bottle for a firm grip. This can be helpful, for example, while serving wine or, in the cellars particularly when ‘turning’ champagne bottles. And finally, this concave finish also helps to channel sediment deposits in the wine.

How many servings are there in a bottle of wine?
A good glass fill, allowing for adequate swirling space, should not exceed 12.5 cl. Thus a regular 75 cl bottle of wine would give you six servings per bottle.

Why does a wine label say, ‘Contains Sulphites’? Is that a warning?
Sulphur is generally used to protect the wine against damage caused by oxygen. Further, sulphur helps prevent organisms from growing in the wine thus allowing the wine to develop in the bottle achieving its complex flavours. If the wine does not not have sulphur, the risk that it may turn into vinegar is greater. Sulphur acts as a preservative.

The ‘Contains Sulphites’ on the label is indeed a warning, particularly for those consumers who are sensitive or allergic to sulphur. The common symptom is an ordinary headache, which is more pronounced from white than from red wines as more sulphur is used in whites. Such consumers should be alert to the contents of natural sulfites as opposed to the added-on sulfites in their wine which the label, unfortunately, does not specify.

This article appeared first in print in Sommelier India – The Wine Magazine.

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