Understanding the dumb phase and aging

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cjsadler
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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#51 Post by cjsadler » January 6th, 2020, 7:43 am

Cellartracker is great for navigating the dumb phase, but I find the Coravin to be of nice use here-- taking a small sample to see where a wine is at and whether I should be opening it or not.
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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#52 Post by Jeff_M. » January 6th, 2020, 8:23 am

Wine definitely goes through phases as it ages. It is helpful to have some type of history with the wine to know or best guess when to drink it. I'd rather not drink a wine too young or too late. Finding that middle ground between the two will vary by varietal, wine maker, etc. Its always neat to do a library vertical tasting to see also how wine varies from year to year.
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joz€f p1nxten
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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#53 Post by joz€f p1nxten » January 14th, 2020, 8:47 am

John Morris wrote:
January 5th, 2020, 2:53 pm
GregT wrote:
January 5th, 2020, 11:07 am
John Morris wrote:
January 4th, 2020, 9:31 pm


Someone once quoted Gaston Huet, the great Vouvray wine producer, saying that you should wait 17 years for his wines to come around. That stuck with me due to its specificity.

Indeed, I quoted that person quoting Huet in a thread three years ago on this very topic. That discussion also contained this memorable comment on the same questions posed by the OP here:

And another great quote from Seiber!

Saying you should wait 17 years sounds nice because nobody is going to double check him in 17 years to see if the wine is indeed better. Burt Williams used to say seven years is a good time to drink your Pinot Noir. But those are off the cuff remarks that don't answer much, other than to say that those guys believed their wines would be better with a little time. They don't really address the "dumb phase" at all, and they really are more about personal preferences. Some people say you should keep some Rieslings for years, but that doesn't mean that the people who prefer them younger are wrong, just that they prefer different things.
Actually, I'm sure the late and generous Joe Doherty did. He certainly had a deep enough collection of Huet to corroborate the contention!
This is a coincidence as I was just looking for notes on older Huet Vouvrays, as I have access to the following at a local restaurant at decent pricing:
  • Huet Le Mont Sec 1983
  • Huet Le Haut-Lieu Sec 1986
  • Huet Le Haut-Lieu Sec 1987
  • Huet Le Haut-Lieu Sec 1988
  • Domaine Foreau Sec 2000
  • Domaine Foreau Moelleux 1996
They are certain older than 17 years, but does that mean open for business or ... down the hill? I know moelleux versions could age a long time, but dry ones? I don't think storage will have been an issue, as the bottles likely come from a local cellar.
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Ian S
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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#54 Post by Ian S » January 14th, 2020, 9:32 am

Jim Stewart wrote:
January 4th, 2020, 3:31 pm
There is a definite correlation.
Between men under 25 and wine not showing well? [snort.gif]
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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#55 Post by Jim Stewart » January 14th, 2020, 10:56 am

Ian S wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 9:32 am
Jim Stewart wrote:
January 4th, 2020, 3:31 pm
There is a definite correlation.
Between men under 25 and wine not showing well? [snort.gif]
Ha! That's also true, but my drift was: If you age long enough your chances of entering a dumb phase are very high! (both witnessed AND experienced) [cheers.gif]
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Marcu$ Stanley
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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#56 Post by Marcu$ Stanley » January 14th, 2020, 8:08 pm

GregT wrote:
January 4th, 2020, 7:42 pm
Explaining it is what is hard, and also why Nate's post wasn't entirely wrong. A lot of people assert with confidence that this or that is happening, but that doesn't mean they're correct in their assessments, or that they have a clue. Some wines apparently do go through some kind of "dumb" phase, but I think the reasons are likely to vary for each specific wine. And I don't think you can really say with confidence that a particular wine will enter it at such and such date and exit at some other fixed date. At least I've never heard a single wine maker make predictions with that kind of confidence. It's the wine drinkers that have the confidence to make those predictions.
Don't agree with this, at least not for Bordeaux. I've found Bordeaux extremely predictable -- drink it in the first 2-3 years after bottling, so maybe 5-6 years after vintage date, or else wait somewhere between 13 to 15 years from vintage for "smaller" vintages and 16 to 20 years for bigger "vin de garde" vintages. If you just set 15 years from vintage for smaller vintages and 20 for tannic "vin de garde" ones you will rarely go wrong IME. There are exceptions, like 1995 LB took more like 23-25 years to open, but it's pretty reliable.

Burgundy seems much less predictable and linear however.

What I would really like to know is the scientific causes. It seems crazy that a phenomenon that is so incredibly important to wine is so poorly understood. Everyone's explanations seem to be mystical or metaphorical rather than the biochemistry one would expect if it was really understood.

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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#57 Post by Charlie Carnes » January 14th, 2020, 8:32 pm

John Morris wrote:
January 4th, 2020, 3:05 pm
maureen nelson wrote:
January 4th, 2020, 2:46 pm
Nate Simon wrote:
January 4th, 2020, 8:56 am
I think it’s essentially a trash-can term. It could mean that the wine is very reductive, that the individual bottle was bad, or that the wine was never any good to begin with.
Totally disagree.
While I think the concept of a dumb phase is real, the term sometimes seems to be applied as Nate suggests -- as an excuse for a mediocre wine. That's where some knowledge of the specific wine or its type, and the vintage, is essential.
Right on!
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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#58 Post by James Billy » January 14th, 2020, 9:17 pm

Brian Gilp wrote:
January 5th, 2020, 10:56 am
Joseph Grassa wrote:
January 5th, 2020, 10:20 am
Evan Pontoriero wrote:
January 5th, 2020, 9:48 am
As hippy-dippy as it sounds, there have been winemaker explanations as far flung as barometric pressure due to storm fronts to vibrational wave cancellation like in sound. It is real, and chemistry hasn't been able to figure it out, unsurprisingly. As much of a hassle as it is I like that it makes it that much more impossible to re-create wines through science, keeping the mystery and excitement of wine alive.
Also a great point. As much as I wish I had it figured out now so as to never "waste" a good wine, I can only imagine that it would be pretty miserable not getting to experiment with bottles at different times and experience the changes.
If you can find a wine that you like and isn’t too expensive, it can be very educational to buy a large enough quantity to follow the wine over many years. I bought 3.5 cases of Niepoort Redoma 2001 and still have half a case left. This wine has gone through many different stages including what I believe most would consider a dumb period where it wasn’t as enjoyable as either before or after. But it went through a number of other changes as well that I would never have understood it only having tried 2-3 bottles.

When I worked the tasting room of a small winery, we had one wine that went in and out of a phase 3 or 4 times. For the first 6 months i worked there I thought the wine just wasn’t that good, then it blossomed only to shut back down again a few weeks later and stay that way for a few months. Next time it opened up for longer before shutting down again but not as long this time and then repeated the pattern a few more times before finally leaving this dumb phase for good. Few who don’t work in the business taste the same wine often enough to understand just how wild the ride can be for some wines.
Interesting. Did you open bottles regularly that showed the same characters and then later open multiple other bottles at a later date that all showed a very different phases? Then you could rule out cork variability.

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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#59 Post by Brian Gilp » January 15th, 2020, 6:09 am

James Billy wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 9:17 pm
Brian Gilp wrote:
January 5th, 2020, 10:56 am
Joseph Grassa wrote:
January 5th, 2020, 10:20 am


Also a great point. As much as I wish I had it figured out now so as to never "waste" a good wine, I can only imagine that it would be pretty miserable not getting to experiment with bottles at different times and experience the changes.
If you can find a wine that you like and isn’t too expensive, it can be very educational to buy a large enough quantity to follow the wine over many years. I bought 3.5 cases of Niepoort Redoma 2001 and still have half a case left. This wine has gone through many different stages including what I believe most would consider a dumb period where it wasn’t as enjoyable as either before or after. But it went through a number of other changes as well that I would never have understood it only having tried 2-3 bottles.

When I worked the tasting room of a small winery, we had one wine that went in and out of a phase 3 or 4 times. For the first 6 months i worked there I thought the wine just wasn’t that good, then it blossomed only to shut back down again a few weeks later and stay that way for a few months. Next time it opened up for longer before shutting down again but not as long this time and then repeated the pattern a few more times before finally leaving this dumb phase for good. Few who don’t work in the business taste the same wine often enough to understand just how wild the ride can be for some wines.
Interesting. Did you open bottles regularly that showed the same characters and then later open multiple other bottles at a later date that all showed a very different phases? Then you could rule out cork variability.
Yes for both cases. With the Redoma, we opened probably 5 bottles over an 1.5 period that just didn’t show well. We had opened a number of bottles both before and after that were consistently good. The bottles after the “dumb” phase were different than before and over time did go through subtle changes as well but results were consistent enough and with enough bottles that I don’t believe bottle variation was the cause.

At the winery, I worked almost every Saturday and the occasional other day. As I was generally opening the tasting room, I tasted every wine at the start of the day as well as and any new wines opened during the day. So I was tasting the same wine weekly and often multiple times per week. The wine in question (1988 merlot) was one of 7 wines on the tasting list at that time and the only one to show these changes.

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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#60 Post by James Billy » January 15th, 2020, 5:14 pm

Thanks for the detailed response. That's very interesting and useful for this debate.

It's all a bit Schrödinger's cat if you are only opening a few bottles over an extended period. [wink.gif]

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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#61 Post by edwardmilstein » January 16th, 2020, 2:24 am

Agree with Chris- in general it will happen on no particular schedule for any given wine- so no predictability.
My best example was 85 Lynch Bages- totally delicious till 91,shut down hard for 10-15 yrs( my general storage was at 52 degrees ) and finally came out in the mid 2000's. It was undrinkable for me in between, hard,no fruit - nasty.Opened multiple bottles and cases and gave up. Drank through 20+ cases.best example I have of a dumb phase with multiple example/cases. Rest of mine are more anecdotal - wine shut down hard- no specific flaws,but not enjoyable.
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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#62 Post by Marcu$ Stanley » January 16th, 2020, 11:08 am

edwardmilstein wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 2:24 am
Agree with Chris- in general it will happen on no particular schedule for any given wine- so no predictability.
My best example was 85 Lynch Bages- totally delicious till 91,shut down hard for 10-15 yrs( my general storage was at 52 degrees ) and finally came out in the mid 2000's. It was undrinkable for me in between, hard,no fruit - nasty.Opened multiple bottles and cases and gave up. Drank through 20+ cases.best example I have of a dumb phase with multiple example/cases. Rest of mine are more anecdotal - wine shut down hard- no specific flaws,but not enjoyable.
Yeah, but that's not unpredictable -- it's totally predictable, the classic Bordeaux pattern that I outlined in the post above in this very thread. Open for drinking from bottle release through 5-6 years after vintage date, then shuts down hard through about 15-20 years after vintage date, then opens back up again. I have observed this pattern over and over again with classed growth Bordeaux so I think it's the opposite of unpredictable. Contrary to "no particular schedule" it appears to have a quite reliable schedule. In fact it's so predictable I'm curious as to why we don't have a clear scientific explanation for it.

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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#63 Post by David Glasser » January 16th, 2020, 10:41 pm

Generally predictable, yes. But not specific enough to confidently predict when a particular bottle has opened back up and is ready to rock. For that, I need additional input from someone who's had it recently or at least knowledge of the specific wine and vintage. Your "15-20 years after the vintage date" won’t tell me which if any of my 2005s or 2000s are ready to go.

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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#64 Post by Rudi Finkler » January 16th, 2020, 11:41 pm

Marcu$ Stanley wrote:
January 16th, 2020, 11:08 am
Yeah, but that's not unpredictable -- it's totally predictable, the classic Bordeaux pattern that I outlined in the post above in this very thread. Open for drinking from bottle release through 5-6 years after vintage date, then shuts down hard through about 15-20 years after vintage date, then opens back up again. I have observed this pattern over and over again with classed growth Bordeaux so I think it's the opposite of unpredictable. Contrary to "no particular schedule" it appears to have a quite reliable schedule. In fact it's so predictable I'm curious as to why we don't have a clear scientific explanation for it.

I tend to agree with you that the evolution of Bordeaux wines is predictable in a way, at least for experienced Bordeaux drinkers, but, from my experience over decades, it mainly depends on the vintage. While, for example, the wines from 1985, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1997, 2001, 2002, 2004, or 2007 rarely showed any ‘dump phase’ worth mentioning, the wines from 1986, 1988, 1995, 1996, 2000, or 2005 seem to be textbook examples for wines that have to go through a relatively long ‘closed’ period, especially the 1995s. -Other people may have other experiences!

With other words, the time frame for a ‘dump phase’ can last from “not worth mentioning” up to several decades. It all depends on the experience and the preferences of the individual drinker.

As for science, Marcus, I think that it is not only impossible, but also undesirable to find a clear scientific explanation. If actually there were an explanation -biochemical or whatever-, then the door would be wide open for further manipulations that I don’t think would be desirable.
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Re: Understanding the dumb phase and aging

#65 Post by Wes Barton » January 17th, 2020, 1:28 pm

The science is there. You can buy the text books. That doesn't make it easy to manipulate a wine in this regard without major negative trade-offs. How do you change a component essential for longevity without effecting longevity? Why would you do that? The incentive is to manipulate wines to make them accessible early and not "need" age.
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