Many of you will know that we are keenly aware that wine’s biggest carbon footprint is created by the manufacture and transport of glass bottles. We’ve written extensively (ad nauseam?) on the subject and we know that many wine lovers are concerned about those particularly heavy wine bottles favoured by some producers. They use up even more fossil fuels to make and ship, sometimes utterly illogical distances from furnace to bottler. And a practical objection in some quarters is that they tend to be opaque and to give little indication of how much is left in the bottle.
One Purple Pager, Arnold von Büren of Lucerne, suggested on our Members’ forum that we include bottle weights in our tasting notes – even declaring that he was prepared to pay more for his membership if we did! After some discussion of the logistics, we are now trying to weigh particularly heavy or particularly light bottles before tasting any of their contents so as to respectively condemn or praise those who chose to use them.
It is taking time to feed the relevant tasting notes through to the site – and of course there will be many instances (if and when professional tastings resume?) when bottle-weighing is impossible. But this week saw two of our first tasting articles incorporating bottle weights. (My 2019 burgundy article published last week included many a bottle weight, but, by and large, producers in Burgundy are much better at avoiding heavy bottles than some of their counterparts in Bordeaux.)
In our article New Zealand – worth celebrating published on Monday, the start of New Zealand Wine Week, there was only one bottle that seemed unnecessarily heavy, and it certainly didn’t correlate with what we perceived as wine quality.
One of the two interesting, ambitious Weinviertel producers featured in Austria from E to Z seems to be a devotee of seriously heavy, black 1.5-kg bottles. As if the weight and opacity of the bottles for Ebner-Ebenauer’s top three bottlings were not enough, they have decided to label them with black lettering on black labels, and to swathe them in black velvet bags. I am not impressed.
I didn’t bother to weigh the bottles of pink champagne that I tasted with Valentine’s Night in mind. (Yes, I do realise it’s a terrible cliché.) Obviously, bottles containing sparkling wine have to be heavier than most to withstand a pressure of up to six atmospheres inside the bottle. Incidentally, it does seem to me that many champagne producers are deliberately making their wine less aggressively fizzy nowadays.
Ferran tasted the exciting new-wave Albariños for his tasting article on Tuesday too long ago to have been able to weigh the bottles. He complemented his tasting notes with a survey of the changes in the Rías Baixas zone on the Atlantic coast of Galicia in north-west Spain. It has become a hotbed of experimentation.
And when tasting for our second report on Raeburn’s 2019 burgundies, including some pretty famous names, Julia was actually tasting in the rather chilly garden of Raeburn’s David Harvey. Muffled up and, with COVID-19 in mind, not actually touching the bottles herself, the last thing she needed was to dally with a pair of scales. Again, Burgundians tend to be pretty well behaved in this respect.
In my article last Saturday I provided a complement to last week’s advice on which red wine vintages to drink now, a survey of which white wines are worth ageing. I’ve received more suggestions since: Viña Tondonia white rioja and English Bacchus.
In his despatch from Singapore, Richard tackled the delicate subject of the Anglocentricity of wine descriptors. There is clearly much work to be done, by both educators and individuals. He is also responsible for today’s wine of the week, a fine Sicilian by COS chosen especially to celebrate the Year of the Ox, which begins today.
On Monday Arnica Rowan highlighted a whole sector of potential wine drinkers who are being ignored by producers: those on keto and low-carb diets. This very much ties in with the detail of ingredient labelling discussed here recently. And yesterday we republished an article about the increasing conflict between official tasting panels and younger, more adventurous producers, resulting in wilderness wines.