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Matt S

Ageing An UNOPENED Bottle

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Evaporaton results from the deterioration of the cork as it ages. Storing wine on its side keeps at least one end of the cork wet, which slows but does not stop the eventual degradation. There is no real 'breathing' until the cork has lost enough resiliance that air can enter (or liquid can evaporate) through microscopic fissures along the sides of the deteriorating cork.

 

Top quality wineries routinely recork their personal reserves at least every 25 years to help prevent the rapid aging that occurs once the cork starts to fail. (I worked for Chateau La Mission Haut Brion for 6 years. I had occasion to help with recorking part of the private cellar during one of my stays there. It's a lot of work.)

 

With bottles stored upright, the cork will dry out all the faster, which is why you find such corks coming out more easily. They lose their internal pressure.

 

I don't know how much effect the very high alcohol of absinthe might have on cork if bottles were stored on their sides like wine. My guess -- only a guess -- is that the alcohol likely would cause a more rapid chemical breakdown of the cork structure.

 

There is a lot of ritual in wine (and in absinthe, of course!) and uncorking a bottle is a key part of it. That is really the only reason many winemakers are reluctant to switch to screw caps, which are inherently superior for sealing bottles, especially for the long-term. It's no longer the case that bottles vary in neck size, and problems with tainted corks have been growing exponentially over the years as the supply to top-quality raw cork diminishes. The problem of wine becoming tainted by bad cork is serious and expensive, and corks themselves are also expensive. But customers for high-end wines expect the 'romance' of cutting a capsule and pulling a cork so most producers continue to use them. However things are changing, and every year I see an increase in the number of fine wines with screw caps. In California it was the legendary winemaker Randall Graham who pioneered the shift. In Australia and New Zealand screw caps are now the norm.

 

I have a friend who is a Master Sommelier. As more and more fine wineries are making the switch to screw caps he faced the problem of keeping the customer happy during the presentation of a bottle. He spent a lot of time practicing a flashy routine whereby he unscrews the cap just enough to break the seal, then slides the neck of the bottle up his arm, causing the cap to spin off. At the end, with a flourish, he raises his shoulder to cause the now-free cap to jump in the air, then deftly catches it in his free hand. It's nothing like the usual cork-pulling routine but it invariably gets applause, and that bit of showmanship makes the customer happier than just seeing a cap screwed off.

 

I may not see Chateau Lafite make the switch in my lifetime, but the number of high-quality wines with screw caps grows with ever year. And personally, after having pulled literally thousands upon thousands of corks during my professional wine career, I love screw caps....... I'm pretty sick of corkscrews, and especially dealing with old, deteriorated corks that crumble as you try to extract them. It's a real art to open an ancient bottle without any pieces of cork falling in. Once upon a time I was really, really good at it.

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I don't know how much effect the very high alcohol of absinthe might have on cork if bottles were stored on their sides like wine. My guess -- only a guess -- is that the alcohol likely would cause a more rapid chemical breakdown of the cork structure.

 

There have been some reported expereinces where this is the case. It also negatively impacts the spirits in the bottle, which I assume is further proof of the cork deteriorating into the drink.

 

I have a friend who is a Master Sommelier. As more and more fine wineries are making the switch to screw caps he faced the problem of keeping the customer happy during the presentation of a bottle. He spent a lot of time practicing a flashy routine whereby he unscrews the cap just enough to break the seal, then slides the neck of the bottle up his arm, causing the cap to spin off. At the end, with a flourish, he raises his shoulder to cause the now-free cap to jump in the air, then deftly catches it in his free hand. It's nothing like the usual cork-pulling routine but it invariably gets applause, and that bit of showmanship makes the customer happier than just seeing a cap screwed off.

 

:clap: Sounds marvelous!

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There have been some reported expereinces where this is the case. It also negatively impacts the spirits in the bottle, which I assume is further proof of the cork deteriorating into the drink.

 

Could you post your references? Thanks.

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Sorry, don't have any historical documents talking about how absinthe went bad from cork damage, but OMG Bill had a really nice bottle of preban become corked after the alcohol sat on its side for too long.

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You don't need references for that, just put a bottle of absinthe on its side and wait a few months.

 

Drink it and notice how off the flavor is. Or clean up a puddle of absinthe from the floor if you are unlucky.

 

That high concentration of ethanol eats cork like a beast. Which is why it is never recommended to store absinthe on its side.

Stefano, you've written some gems in this thread. I almost want to split them out into a 'Stefano's musings on absinthe' thread. Seriously. Great reading.

Seriously. :worshippy:

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However, many of the newer absinthes now have silicone corks. Probably will still impart an off flavor(not willing to test that theory myself), but I'll bet they will hold up better than natural cork. Still, it surely is better to store it standing up either way.

Edited by greytail

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Agreed. Just as with the aging effects of barrels vs. glass, albeit on a much smaller scale, since only a couple of square inches of surface area is exposed to the air in a bottle. I would assume that regular agitation would accelerate the aging in a bottle that has a natural cork, but probably on a level that is imperceptable to most.Stefano, you've written some gems in this thread. I almost want to split them out into a 'Stefano's musings on absinthe' thread. Seriously. Great reading.

Thanks Brian!

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Very old thread but I figured I would just reply back that those that wanted to say that I have fought back the temptation many a time to crack a bottle open and the aging continues 9 years later.

 

Edited by Garrett

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