Under Pressure

by Chuck Hayward

Under Pressure

Post by Jeff Loo | April 6th, 2011

When I heard that we would be visiting Jeffrey Davies this week to taste through a slew of 2010 Right Bank wines, I was thrilled at the opportunity to reconnect.  Two years ago, just before I left for France to work the 2009 harvest at La Confession, I met him in San Francisco. After dinner he told me I would have fun and learn a lot and then offered me a taste of 1928 d’Yquem.  What an introduction!

Jeffrey Davies (r) tasting with the JJB crew

Fast forward to April 2011. Jeff welcomed the whole JJB team to his Signature Selections office on a cold and rainy day, rather dreary really. We proceeded to taste through 65 wines from St. Emilion, Pomerol, Cotes de Castillon, Fronsac and other satellite arenas from the Right Bank, and during the course of the tasting, we noticed some of the wines were ones we had tasted the day prior with superstar consultant Stephen Derenoncourt.  The interesting thing was that they were completely different.  We had been hearing about barometric pressure and how it affects winetasting.  To be honest, I thought it was complete bunk. 

As Jeff continued, the wines continued to taste significantly different. It finally clicked.  Barometric pressure is the force exerted on objects by the weight of the atmosphere above them. While it isn't common for us to think of gas as weighing on anything, in fact, it does. On a sunny day, like the one before, the barometric pressure is going to be higher, and the weight does not press as heavily on the wine, allowing it to show better.  However, on a cold and rainy day, when the barometric pressure is lighter and the humidity lower, the air does not allow the wine to fully benefit from the surroundings. Then the wines can be perceived as watered down and flat.

With this idea being common in Bordeaux and seeing it in action, I guess it’s not as silly as I once thought.  What does this mean to us as wine drinkers?  Maybe nothing… but you be the judge.  Grab two bottles of the same wine and open one on a sunny day and record your findings.  Then open the other bottle on a day that is cold and wet, and see if you enjoy it more, less or the same. And let us know what you decide...