Does size matter?

By / Magazine / January 20th, 2015 / 10
Does the size of the bottle affect the taste of a wine?

When it comes to bottles, size does matter, unless you count yourself in the majority of wine buyers who tuck into their purchase within 48 hours of its arrival home. To most of you, cellaring a wine is so 17th century. You buy it for a certain occasion (which could be as pedestrian as “it’s Monday”), and liquid hits glass sooner than later.

If you cracked open a variety of bottles sizes, all containing the same wine from the same vintage, and give them a swirl, you shouldn’t discern any difference in personality.

The one caveat is age. My previous paragraph of brilliance proves itself true only with wines that haven’t been around too long, because time and wine bottle size don’t always get along so well.

That’s the reason why the current 750 ml package is the dominant design on store shelves. While its volume is just about right for sharing between two people, it also allows the wine to mature at a near-perfect rate.

I’m talking volume versus air here, folks. Over time, air trapped in the bottle starts to do its not-so-dirty work on a wine, eventually deteriorating full-bodied vino to a point where fruit, acid and (in reds) tannins are as harmonious as a Beach Boys greatest hits album.

A smaller and larger bottle each has proportionately about the same amount of air inside it as its 750 ml brethren; so it makes sense that the weenier the receptacle, the quicker its cargo will age, and vice versa for a jumbo bottle.

So yes, if you’re a collector, your bottle of choice can dictate how your wine will taste in the long run. It’s never been a problem for me; I’m way more Mr 48 hours.

What’s so special about a blind tasting?

Of course, for full disclosure, you’re talking about a tasting where the bottles are bagged or otherwise disguised so that no one will know what they’re putting in their mouths. While I’m not sure how special they are, blind tastings have two main objectives: 1) they offer professionals a chance to review a wine on its own merit without encouraging any bias or prejudice against the producer and/or country of origin; and 2) it gives wine geeks a chance to try and get their James Bond on by showing off their palate prowess as they attempt to determine what’s in their glass with only a few hints (maybe) and their past experiences to go on.

Call me irresponsible, but to quote The Pursuit of Happiness, one of Canada’s greatest bands of the ’80s, “I’m an adult now.” Show me the label. I can taste a wine knowing who pressed the berries and still make an impartial assessment without any fear of unleashing some personal retribution on the winemaker.

And I have no hunger for games. So guessing who made what and the ancestry of its flavour profile is about as entertaining for me as watching grape juice ferment.

If going blind is your vision there are a couple of options. The classic version (often called a single-blind tasting) allows a little leeway for the participants. Generally they’re told the wine’s homeland and maybe the fruit used to make it. If the organizers are feeling especially giving, they might also reveal the vintage.

During a double-blind tasting everything’s a secret. Black glassware might even be employed to try and disguise the colour of each wine being presented for evaluation.

Not that I want to put a cork into anyone’s party; it’s just that I spent my university years behind a cash desk selling booze. The last thing I’m interested in doing is putting more bottles into brown paper bags.


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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