I still can't believe it!

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Senior Member
May 26, 2009
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The wife and I were out driving Saturday afternoon and as we passed a local beer and wine store noticed they were having a wine tasting. Having nothing better to do we decided to drop in and see what they had to taste. Well, there was the usual assortment of inexpensive and ordinary whites and reds except for one red that caught my attention------a Napa Valley Charbono. I had never had a Charbono before except maybe in blended wines. It was a Robert Foley 2007 vintage. I tasted it and immediately liked the full body, toasted oak, mouthfeel, fruit forward taste and bouquet. As a rule, I don't buy much commercial wine because I make so much of my own that it seems like a waste of money. But, in this case I decided to spring for a bottle to take home. I convinced myself, "So what's $35 when you may be adding a new varietal to your repetoire." This was, after all, a retail wine shoppe so I knew I wasn't getting much of a discount, if any.

Upon opening my new bottle at home, it was like a totally different wine! All the basics were there-----it had good body, the nose was good, it had the toasted oak and tannins. However, it was flabby and flat and tasted like a $7.99 wine. I couldn't believe it!

It happens that I had my pH meter handy because I had been checking and recording some of my fermenting wines. I stuck the recently calibrated pH meter into my glass of Charbono and the reading was 4.01. I couldn't believe it!

I had some tartaric acid handy so I added just a little (maybe 1/4 tsp) to my glass. I rechecked the pH and it was 3.4. I tasted it and a whole new wine emerged. It was as if I had dumped the first glass and all the charateristics of a $35 bottle of wine suddenly appeared in my glass. I couldn't believe it!

I then took the 3/4 bottle that was left and added enough tartaic acid to bring the whole bottle to pH 3.4. I stopped there while I was ahead.

I still can't believe a commercial winemaker would release a wine with a pH 4.1 onto the market. I doubt mine was the only bottle------I bet the whole batch was at that level. This is the kind of mistake even newbies wouldn't make. This particular winery is known for decent quality wines and I had seen their name before on some pricey wine.

I still can't believe how much difference adjusting pH made and it taught me a valuable lesson-----that you can have the excellent quality juice and all other parameters in accordance with a quality wine, but something as no-brainer as pH can undermine all other efforts to produce a quality product.

I still can't believe the commercial guys make these kinds of basic mistakes!

Why didn't you take the botle of wine back to where you bought or was it too far away to be worth it ? i would have atleast called them .
I have to wonder if they didn't get the wines screwed up at the tasting. That is, they served you one wine but told you it was another. You don't normally see that kind of variation from one bottle to another unless the wine is produced by a really large producer; i.e. Charles Shaw, Yellow Tail, etc.
I will call them and let them know. It was Saturday night when I opened the wine and I would not have drunk anymore had I not tried adding the tartaric acid in the glass. That fixed it so I saw no need to return the bottle.

Also, there may have been a screw-up at the wine shop. I thought I had tasted and was buying a 2005 Robert Foley until I got home and noticed it was a 2007 vintage. I won't go so far as to say it was a bait and switch, but I will stop back by and ask to see what they were offering for tasting.

Having worked in wine retail before for a few years, I would say your assumption about picking up a different vintage than you tasted is probably the correct reason for the difference. I also think it's probably unlikely you were deliberately misled.... usually, when newer vintages come into a store, there is no notification to the retailer and often the staff don't even notice that they have two different vintages on the shelf.

You're right about that pH being unacceptable... my winemaking prof always says that any winemaker that releases a wine with a pH above 3.8 should be shot. Maybe a bit extreme punishment, but you know what he means!

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