BERGER: 1 case, 12 slightly different wines

The syrah was sensational. I bought a case. A couple of weeks later I opened a bottle. It was pretty good. But not sensational.

Was I duped? Did the wine I originally tasted change? What went wrong?

In fact, my reaction to the second bottle relates more to any number of factors related to two simple facts:

1. Wine is a living product and changes imperceptibly.

2. We are not machines; we differ from day to day.

There are other factors that affect how a wine tastes on a given day, which makes the act of wine evaluation anything but a science.

The aforementioned syrah was first tasted in a blind setting and my first reaction was more amusement than love. Only after I tasted the wine for 20 minutes did I realize its greatness. The next time I tried it, I sought instant verification of its quality -- which was not how I viewed the wine the first time. Once the second bottle was open for a half hour, I again saw what I first had seen.

Also I recalled the odd concept of bottle variation -- that mystical notion that in a case of wines, you can have as many as 12 slightly different wines. Think of how many ways a bottle of wine can vary (very minutely) from its brethren.

The cork can be tainted or creased and alter the wine.

A white wine bottled in a clear glass bottle can pick up a slight skunkiness if left in direct light for even a short period of time.

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