First Published in Costa News Group, February 2011

HAVE BODEGAS GOT THE BOTTLE?

 A Spanish company, Estal Packaging, has just produced a new, uniquely shaped bottle, designed by famous Basque Restaurateur Martín Berasategui, which claims to be the answer to the problem of sediment in fine wines. I have a proto-type sitting on my desk right now – alas, empty!

 However there are many such bottles that have recently been shipped for trials to a number of bodegas that pride themselves on the longevity of their fine wines. The factory results are excellent but is the proof of the bottle in the pouring thereof, of fine wine that has thrown a deposit? Do they actually work?

 There are countless wines produced each year that will not require the services of such a bottle. Some grape varieties rarely leave a deposit anyway and many producers are worried about having ‘clean’ wine so as not to alienate the consumer, who doesn’t want tiny deposits in the bottom of his glass and insists on pouring the whole 75cl.

 Yet it can be argued that wines which undergo: fining (a means of clarifying wine by adding a fining agent to coagulate or absorb the microscopic particles left in the liquid which then drops to the bottom of the tank); and racking (where clear wine is removed from the sediment at the bottom of the barrels), lose something along the way.

 Purists would say that the heart of the wine has been extracted from the finished product making it a slightly lesser wine. Indeed there are many producers who deliberately do not ‘fine’ their wines preferring to have some sediment in the bottle to help the continuing maturation process. Often such bottles proudly proclaim that the wine has not been fined/racked/clarified warning consumers that there may be a sediment so please pour with care. I often go for such wines.

 Well it seems that there is now the increased possibility of our buying wines that have not undergone the invasive procedure of fining and racking but that will still be clear when poured into the glass despite the presence of sediment. The slightly odd-looking, and I have to say, not so aesthetically pleasing, new design will hopefully trap the sediment in its base allowing us the benefit of a wine with its heart in place but without unpleasant looking deposits in the bottom of the glass.

 Nevertheless I do have some reservations, which I hope will be proved wrong in the clinical trials that are already taking place.

 When a wine is poured from the tank or barrel into the bottles it brings with it the tiny particles mentioned earlier – some of the fruit and the dead yeast. With time, Isaac Newton, our science teachers and, just to be sure, the winemakers, tell us gravity will take these particles down to the base of the bottle. The bottle manufacturers conclude that this is where the sediment will be trapped when the bottle is eventually poured.

 However, as we know, when storing wine that has been closed with cork it should be left lying horizontally to keep the cork in contact with the wine (to avoid the cork drying). If we do this with the Martín Berasategui System bottle the sediment will not all be trapped in the base.

 Well the design team must have seen this criticism coming as they claim that the new packaging system they have also invented allows the bottles to stay in their case which stores them at an angle, where the cork remains moist and the sediment stays where it’s meant to.

 The jury is out but I’m hoping for a positive verdict!

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