There are 12, standard 750ml bottles in a case of wine. If you’re using the metric system, or filing tax payments for a winery, the most important number is that those 12 bottles make up 9 liters of wine. Exactly 9 and you’ll see why that’s impressive in a minute. But first, let’s delve a bit deeper into what should be a basic question in the wine industry: how many bottles in a case of wine?
I’ve always thought the size of a wine bottle is an interesting story (largely it’s because 750ml is the approximate amount of air your lungs can hold and wine bottles were once blown by hand, by glassblowers). But why 12 bottles in a case? Why not 6? Or 9, especially 9, wouldn’t a 3×3 case have made more sense? Our current 12 bottle in a case setup, isn’t uniform or square, it’s a 4×3.
The honest answer about why a case has 12 bottles and not some different number is that I don’t know. I’ve asked around. I’ve googled it. I’ve looked at the reference materials I have and there’s absolutely nothing, there’s no reason given. It seems that there are 12 bottles in a case of wine, because there always have been 12. But why?
I’m going to conjecture that there are 12 bottles in a case of wine because those 12 bottles often weigh about 35 pounds. 35 pounds, based on personal experience is about the amount that most grown adults can comfortably carry without dropping it. It’s not the minimum, but pretty close to the maximum in my opinion. If you needed wine to be transported as quickly and efficiently as possible, especially when you were working by hand without the help of any technology, wouldn’t you want to maximize the amount of wine in each trip, while minimizing breakage? Makes sense to me.
So how many bottles in a case of wine? It’s 12.
Why are there 12 bottles in a case of wine? That part is unclear at best.
We’ve all seen them in a winery: rows and rows of oak barrels. Many people do wonder, how many bottles of wine in a barrel?
I know you all want a straight answer. The answer that you normally read is 25 cases in a barrel of wine, or 300 bottles.
But, that’s not entirely true. The fact is, that the number of bottles of wine in a barrel can and does, change.
Look at how wine is often transferred from that barrel to the bottling line:
As you might expect, you might lose a bit of wine in those “pipes”. You might also lose some wine in barrel due to any number of factors…..yes, shrinkage definitely does happen in the wine industry like it does to retailers across the globe. But, the entire concept of taking wine out of a barrel to taste it happens with something called a “wine thief”.
Was someone thieving along the route? Maybe. Did I give away some of those extra 30 bottles along the way? Maybe.
But really, this is an ongoing issue for wineries across the world. When you ask the question, how many bottles of wine in a barrel? You think it’s a simple answer and many would tell you 25. Winemakers would shake their head at that simplistic of an answer.
There are a number of terms within the wine industry that we take for granted, but that the average consumer, might not be familiar with. Tannins probably comes up more often within the industry than we care to admit, but what are tannins?
Tannins exist in all the parts of the grape, which aren’t the juice. So basically we’re talking about grape skins, seeds and grape stems.
You experience tannin in two ways generally and if you’re unlucky, a third. First, tannins can lead to the sensation of dryness in your mouth. Secondly, tannins can cause you to pucker your cheeks when you drink wine.
As for those that are unlucky, it’s generally accepted that tannins are the reason that some people experience headaches from wine, especially red wine since the tannin levels of red wine are so much higher.
As you might expect, different grapes carry different levels of tannin naturally in large part because of the thickness of their skin. Pinot Noir is a finicky grape, in large part because it has a very thin skin. So less tannins than say Carignan which comes with a much thicker skin.
There are also a ton of winemaker choices that go into the amount of tannin in a wine. Allowing grapes to ferment with longer skin contact, increases tannins. Fermenting with whole clusters does the same. Of course as is the case with a lot of winemaking, some winemakers will tell you that some of the choices that seem to add more tannins to wine, actually don’t.
In any case, if you’re wondering what are tannins? They’re the part of your glass of wine, that dries out your mouth and provides structure to what you’re drinking.
Every so often, I open a bottle of wine and am greeted by:
So to start, there’s nothing wrong with the above picture. Sediment is a completely normal thing when it comes to red wine. If you get it in white wine, unless the wine was aged for a significant period of time, something has gone wrong.
What causes sediment in wine?
So sediment in wine can come from two main sources. Neither is necessarily bad, but like so much in wine, it’s nice to know more, than less.
First, if you’re aging your wine, that usually does lead to some level of sediment. Tannins can combine with phenols as time goes by (more on Phenols here). Normally, people who drink much older wine than I do, report this starts happening in earnest around the 10 year mark.
Secondly, they can be caused by any number of things within the wine itself. Left over yeast cells. Bits of grape skins. Grape seeds. ETC ETC. Yes, even bits of dirk. (if that disgusts you, a quick reminder, wine is an agricultural product, like the strawberries your kids ate at breakfast). If a winemaker filters his/her wine, it’s to remove this kind of stuff. For white wine, this is much, much more common than it is in red wine.
So what causes sentiment in wine? There’s a couple of possible things, neither of which is an issue and neither of which should cause any level of concern, even if it does.
It’s a difficult thing. To get an update on harvest from winemakers during harvest. Harvest, for better or worse, is a crucible of 16 hour days, in fact that it’s so bad that winemaker spouses joke that there are harvest widows, those left behind during the 12 weeks of average 16 hour days. Some elementary schools go so far as offering later after school care during harvest. It’s a crazy time. Here’s some more information on 2018 harvest in both Napa Valley and Sonoma.
Video Transcription: Hi all. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. In any case, I wanted to give everybody a quick harvest update. So, no scattered bottles of wine today, although I know that’s always fun.
So, harvest is kind of in full swing in some areas and not even happening in others. So, I’ve talked to Sonoma Winemaker who makes mostly Pinot and Chardonnay and she said that she has three picks this week, and then she’s done. Meanwhile, some of my friends on the central coast, they’ve said they haven’t picked anything, including rosé. So you get these huge swings, but the frank matter for the year is that it’s been a pretty cold summer in California, at least in much of it, so winemakers were kind of begging for heat at some point to get the grapes to ripen those last few bricks.
So bricks is the sugar content in the wine. 17, 20, 22, 24, depending on what kind of style people want to make is kind of the range where people pick. Often, it’s the hardest to get them from that 17 to whatever that finishing wine is, and that’s where you need the most heat. And I think this year we’re gonna see the largest dichotomy between early picks … Not early, but late picks in some areas, but then extremely late picks in others, and that’s driven by two things. First, of course, local climate plays a big role, but then second, when you have cold years, it takes a lot longer to ripen these thicker skin grapes that are … Like, [inaudible 00:01:28] is an example. So if you’re growing Carignan or Syrah, you’re probably, fingers crossed, hoping beyond hope that the rain that’s coming this week in parts of the state is not gonna hit you very hard because it’s not even supposed to be warm after that, so that really is the issue that we’re gonna start running into.
As the picks for these thicker skin grapes move later and later in the year, these are also the grapes that are most at-risk for stuff like mildew, which happens from moisture. But, this part of the year is also where we have the most moisture coming in, and it’s the coolest part of the growing season, so it’s the least chance for the moisture to dry out. So you’re gonna have people, I think, in some areas of the central coast, at least, that are going to have to make some real decisions about should we let this hang on the vine, or maybe we should make something that’s a little bit more acidic. So, for all those folks that say California can’t make anything that’s Frenchman style, they might get their wish this year.
So, in any case, that’s the quick harvest update. We’ll have some harvest for your guys probably coming this week, and it’s been a fun 10 days or so. Hope everybody’s doing well.
There’s a lot of common wisdom in the wine industry, not all of it is really accurate, in large part because we’re often missing some historical significance. Take what should be a simple question: do you chill red wine?
The common wisdom is that no, you don’t chill red wine, you serve it at room temperature. White wine is supposed to be chilled.
Not exactly on either count. Most of these truisms are turned at least slightly on their head because we live in an era of insulation, central heat and central air.
When we talked about the appropriate temperature for the serving of wine, you’ve got to think about where and when those ideas came about. Take an old dusty farmhouse in Bordeaux (yeah, Bordeaux was full of peasants back in the day, that’s not how we picture it though) or an old brick building in Champagne.
Room temperature in those spots was much different than it is today. In fact, there was a lot less difference between red wine serving temperatures and white wine serving temperatures in those spots any number of years ago.
These days, we chill white wine too much. Our red wine is too hot.
So, if you ask me, yes, we should be able to chill red wine.
But again, this largely depends on where you live. Average temperature in many wine regions is remarkably consistent, 60 to 65 degrees. That’s about right, but when’s the last time you set your thermostat to 60 degrees? For our house, we’re within a half mile or so of San Francisco Bay, so it’s never all that hot and never all that cold either.
Ok, so what red wines should we chill? Personally, I find that there is a direct correlation between the amount of acidity in a wine and how cold people like to drink it. So more acidic wines are better bets to be chilled than are more tannic versions. So you should consider chilling Pinot Noir before Cabernet Sauvignon as an example.
Secondly, one thing that we do know, is that serving a wine at cooler temperatures does tend to decrease the aromatics of the wine, so if you’re mostly concerned with the smell of a wine, don’t chill it nearly as much. This does hold true for white wines as well. Gewurztraminer coming out of the refrigerator is a problem as an example.
Lastly, as always, two caveats. Knowing a bit about the vineyard sourcing or winemaking makes a TON of difference. I’d gladly chill a Grenache from William Allen at Two Shepherds, but wouldn’t dream of doing the same from that same varietal made by Anthony Young at Kinero.
Oh and most important of all. If common wisdom doesn’t work for you, please don’t follow it. If you like your Chardonnay as cold as ice, go for it. If you want your Zinfandel coming out of an ice bucket like a beer on the 4th of July, don’t let any wine snob stop you.
So, do you chill red wine? Kind of. It’s complicated.
Ok, so this is the first in what I expect is going to be a longer wine pairing guide with food, since food/wine pairings do matter. So what wine goes with steak?
The Standard Bearer:
Cabernet Sauvignon: No wine in the world comes to dominate local markets quite the same way as does Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s the most common pairing with any number of foods, in large part because it’s the most commonly served red wine in the world. Cabernet Sauvignon goes well with steak, because it is both full bodied, but also because it retains some acidity especially in cooler climate vineyard locations.
Zinfandel: California’s native grape according to many, Zinfandel offers a spicy backbone that other grapes simply cannot match (ok, there’s Syrah, but come on now, nobody drinks much Syrah no matter how much as an industry we try). The key to pairing Zinfandel with steak is to look for old vine Zinfandel. Younger Zinfandel vines can be too tannic and overpower the meat. Old Vine Zinfandel retains a significant portion of its acidity.
Grenache: Ok, now I’m moving into grapes which go well with steak, that others aren’t going to mention. Grenache, surprisingly to many Americans, is one of the most planted red wine grapes in the world. It takes on much, much different character depending on where it was planted and some winemaking choices along the way. Typically, if you’re looking to pair your Grenache with steak, you’ll want to find cooler climate versions, they tend to be a bit meatier.
Pinot Noir: Without a doubt, the fastest growing varietal in America. Thanks Sideways. People have long gone to thicker skinned varietals to add a wine to their steak dinner, but things are changing. Consumer preferences in America are moving further and further away from grapes like Malbec and Caignan and toward lighter skinned grapes like both Pinot Noir and Grenache. A lighter and more acidic wine like Pinot Noir would never have been paired with steak a generation ago.
Ok, so what wine goes with steak? Overall, the basic idea is a simple one: drink what you like. But, if you really want to have an accurate pairing between your steak and your wine: choose Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Grenache or Pinot Noir.
Without a doubt, there’s any number of these in the English language, words that sound very similar, if not exactly the same, but that have different meanings. In this case, we’re talking about palate vs palette.
I think the classic example might be “right” vs “write” but there are a few of these that touch on the wine industry as well.
Palate is one of these terms that gets tossed around pretty often in winery tasting rooms, while the palette is often misused for another aspect of the industry, pallet. Yeah I know, it’s actually probably more confusing than simply palate vs palette.
When we’re talking about the term palate, we’re normally referring to an individual and their own unique set of flavors that they notice, or don’t notice, more often than the average individual. A few examples, some people find that they taste salt in their food more than others. Others, (I fall into this category) notice the bitterness in certain foods more than others, so as an example, I really dislike chocolate. Your palate is your personal preferences and ability to notice those flavors in both food and wine.
A palette on the other hand is often misused by some in the wine industry to not mean the artists paint holder/mixing trey, but instead the piece of wooden board that cases of wine are stacked on top of.
Ok, so when people are wondering what’s the difference between palate vs palette in the wine industry, they’re really talking about the term palate. It’s something that ties together both winemakers as well as, tasting room staff, which isn’t actually that easy to do!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion of the differences between palate vs palette, with a side of pallet thrown in.
In any case, there’s about 25 ounces in a 750ml wine bottle.
Also, if you’re wondering why a wine bottle is that size today. Think back to ancient times, glass wasn’t made in factories, but instead by people. 750ml is about the amount of air held in the average humans lungs. (here’s my write up on that one).
J Christopher marks the end of what was way, way too long without an Oregon Pinot Noir. I won’t have that happen again any time soon. For wine club members looking forward to good Pinot Noir from the Northwest, or really just anyone wanting to experience one of the best vintages in a region, Oregon’s 2014 vintage offers a fun look at what’s possible.
Hi all. Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’ll hold this up so you can get a good look at it. So this is a special selection and a reserve selection. Both of our red wine clubs are getting one of these this month. And this is J. Christopher. So I’ve been a bit remiss, I haven’t done an Oregon Pinot in a while. Personally love Oregon Pinot. So while the wine club newsletter this month is going to go into some more in depth information about J. Christopher, the winery and the winemaker and all that kind of stuff, I thought I’d take a couple of minutes here and introduce the wine, and more importantly, maybe, the wine region.
So everybody knows Oregon, and they think of Oregon and the Willamette Valley as a Pinot Noir destination. That’s 100% true. The vast, vast majority of what they grow is Pinot. So this is the Willamette, a lot of people aren’t aware is there is six sub-AVAs within the Willamette Valley, and this is the Eola Amity Hills*. And so it’s kind of tricky to say, which means people are less likely to visit, and it’s also southwest of the city of Portland, and it’s the most southern AVA in the Willamette Valley. And so typically, when we hear “southern,” I think we as an American wine drinker, we think southern as warmer. And that’s definitely true, but this is southwest, and this is actually one of the cooler spots in the wider Willamette Valley.
And it’s also further away from Portland, and being further away from Portland means that you’re much more likely to find dirt roads, and winemaker actually pouring the wine, than you are at spots that are only half an hour outside the city, as you might expect. We have a long history in the wine industry of wine regions popping up about an hour or so outside of major cities. People like to kind of get out, for lack of a better term. Napa and Sonoma both fit that profile from San Francisco. Long Island in New York, we don’t think of Long Island as having wine. For a long time, they did produce wine, before population pressures have kind of moved vineyards out to other parts of the state. But that was about an our outside New York City. Obviously in Europe there’s a million examples. Champagne is an hour outside of Paris. You know, Mosel is only an hour or so outside a couple major cities in Germany, et cetera, et cetera.
So anyway, the Eola Amity Hills. So it’s the coolest of the sub-AVAs within the Willamette, so that means that you get these guys doing things a little bit differently. So you get the Melon de Bourgogne, which is kind of this weird varietal that nobody’s ever heard of. You get people growing Pinot, of course, and you get people growing these others, like Dornfelder and these other weird grapes that nobody’s ever heard of before, and that only grow in the coldest and coldest of American climates. So that’s what the Eola is famous for.
And I think the results for Oregon 2014s are exemplary. I think the “vintage of the century” in this case could almost be justified. There’s definitely been critic scores that seem to suggest that it is. I don’t think we should take vintages off, because I think that really hurts small wineries and helps large ones, but I do think that at times like this, it’s maybe smart to, if you see an Oregon 2014 as opposed to a ’15, that’s probably a good time to pick it up.
So in any case, I hope you enjoy an Oregon Pinot. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. We’ll be doing more as we move into the fall and into the spring this year. I rally do like telling the story of Oregon, what’s happening up there. You know, in a lot of ways it reminds me of Sonoma a few years back, where you have Pinot plantings reaching, perhaps, a crescendo and you’re starting to see smaller winemakers branch out from Pinot and make some other, maybe, more interesting stuff. So in any case, J. Christopher, coming out to you if you’re a wine club member, and if you’re not, this is a darn good bottle of wine if you happen across one. Thanks again.
Brooks Winery is based here, and they’ve brought the profile up significantly over the years. J. Christopher sources some grapes from here as well. So this is 2014 Oregon, and 2014 Oregon, the folks in Oregon call it vintage of the century. In the wine industry, “vintage of the century” happens every five years or so. But in 2014 in Oregon, basically what happened was that it was a little bit warmer. And the one thing they struggle with in a lot of regions is making sure they get the ripeness at a time of the winemaker’s choosing.
And so they ran about two weeks early in 2014, and that gave the winemakers really a chance to pick exactly when they wanted to. In Oregon, if they run late, and they start running into late September or even early October, it’s actually quite a problem for them, because they get heavy rains. And so running a couple weeks early brought them into the beginning of September for Pinot picking, and that really let them have this, “I don’t want to pick this on Thursday, I’d rather pick it Friday morning,” kind of thing, which they don’t always get a chance to do.