Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is Size Important?

Is size important? Is bigger better? Or can small work just as well?

I am referring to the size of wine bottles. There are those who believe that bottle size is actually significant in the taste and aging of a wine. In this regard, bigger might be better.

Decanter magazine (12/07 issue) had an article titled "Does Size Really Matter?" by Beverly Blanning, MW. Unfortunately, a copy of the article is not on the Decanter website. But I recommend you pick up a copy of the magazine and read the article.

The article begins listing some advantages to half-bottles but notes that many producers are reluctant to make half-bottles and, more importantly, some feel the quality in a half-bottle is not as good as a regular-sized bottle. Or a magnum.

Why is this so? It is said that half-bottles do not age as well. And may even be more suspectible to taint. Though much of this is anecdotal, there may be some scientific basis as well. The amount of oxygen that can get into a bottle affects its aging, so a magnum sees less oxygen than a half-bottle and ages more slowly. Yet other factors may play a role as well. For example, a smaller bottle might be more sensitive to shock and temperature changes.

Blanning conducted a blind taste test to see if there was a difference between half-bottles and regular-sized bottles. She did note significant differences, preferring the half-bottles in a few of the tastings. The half-bottles often seemed to have matured faster.

Dr. Debs over at Good Wines Under $20 recently posted about the benefits of half-bottles and mentioned in the comments that she feels the size of the bottle affects some wines.

I really have little experience in this area so find it hard to have an opinion. I rarely have half-bottles, mainly because there are so few available in my local area. Of those half-bottles that I have drunk, most have been dessert wines. When I have had half-bottles of other wines, I have not been actively trying to compare how they stood up to a regular-sized bottle or a magnum. In addition, I drink few magnums.

Yet the basic theory does sound plausible. Wine certainly is suspectible to many different variables, so why not bottle size as well? It is something I never gave much consideration to but one which I will think about in the future.

What are your experiences in this area? Do you feel bottle size affects wine?

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