A few days ago a regular stopped by in search of a special bottle; a gift for his father-in-law. "I really love Burgundy," he said, "but I've also been disappointed by a few bottles."
I smiled and nodded, "Yes, I understand."
This is the world we live in: Wine, The Fickle Seductress.
Burgundy is an obvious example yet the truth is that all wines — at least all honest wines, those handcrafted objects so beholden to that other fickle seductress, Mother Nature — are changeable things. Granted, some more than others. But all wines go through awkward phases where they may or may not fully express themselves once we've pulled the cork.
Wines, especially younger wines, that were open and expressive a month back can suddenly shut down, entering a "dumb" phase where they just aren't talking, or prefer to reveal but a hint of their charms. Wines can be touchy after transport, funky from reduction (the lack of oxygen), tight as a drum head, or otherwise affected by the weather, the biodynamic calendar — which some think is BS but I'm not so sure — or, who knows, cranky for reasons unknown.
But the fact is that (factory-churned plonk aside) good wine is anything but predictable. That is part of its mystery and beauty, its ability to surprise and enthrall, leave us grasping for words, or spouting the unprintable.
Older wines, even properly cellared, present their own challenges. But the reality is that even with the best advice and research on where, say, that 2005 Mascarello Barolo might be at this stage of its life, we never really know until we've pulled the cork. Even then a closed wine can blossom in the glass, or a glorious older vintage might fade.
That's the way it is. My advice is to enjoy the ride and never stop learning.