I’m not so naive that I didn’t expect that I might put a few noses out of joint with my vintage 2011 commentary. But I’m spending quite a bite of time fielding questions and having to justify myself – and to be honest it’s getting a bit too time consuming to keep up with, and that’s without the various ‘forum threads’ that currently populate our planet. Therein, are a significant number of regurgitating challenges and questions that come around, and around, and around, (time and time again!) – people could of-course just read what I have written in 2008, then they wouldn’t need to ask all those questions (again!) 😉
Here, culled from my inbox, I’ve put a few observations together, and added a little more discussion – I will leave it like that, as I have a real job: Of-course if 2,000 of you kind souls each club together to pay me €100 a year to keep writing, and promise to keep subscribing for at least 5 years, I might consider otherwise and pretend to be a professional who ‘owes’ somebody something 😉
- WHO. I’m being taken to task for what I’ve written by many people – either directly, or indirectly through various ‘wine fora’ – if I take out my very large magnifying glass, it seems that almost exclusively they are in the business of selling wine. But let’s not pre-judge anybody’s motives…
- YOU SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS. I started Burgundy Report as something I would like to read, which wasn’t available – and I still write it for me, travelling to ‘unpopular’ villages to keep learning. I write what I see and I write what I taste – to do otherwise would be a level of dishonesty that might even make Natalie Maclean blush. There is no subtext for me, I am independent; I have (long!) demonstrated that I spend more on wine than I should; I like wine; so I am not going to lie, for anyone!
- SUBSTITUTE THEORIES. There are a couple, and from good people too – though seemingly with little real chemistry/theory to back them up. And we should note that if they know/knew the problem, then why are some of their own 2004s tainted? – I haven’t tasted either of the domaines’ 2011s. As a trained scientist*, I expect any theory (mine is no more than that, yet I think it robust) to be tested to destruction. There could indeed be an alternative ‘solution’ to pyrazines in 2004 and 2011, BUT (I emphasise) please ensure that any alternative theory takes account of both vintages, not just 2004. This has not been demonstrated by any alternative theory put forward so far (that wouldn’t besmirch every vintage in living memory). When you have that, I will rejoin the conversation. (I hope you don’t fall-back on the one about spraying a lot – that could get 2012 off on a very bad foot!)
- TAINT IN 2011 IS STILL JUST CONJECTURE. No it’s not, I’ve just come back from the Côtes, and to add to my notes in the summer and autumn issues, yet again I have seen a ‘taint’ rate of about 50% at new addresses. Note I’ll continue to publish my notes on my timetable!
- BUT THERE ARE LOTS OF WINEMAKERS WHO SAY THERE WERE NO COCCINELLE IN 2011. After first referring you again to point number 1 (above), I totally accept that any natural phenomena is unlikely to be homogenous – how often were the vines treated (and with what), differences north or south, or low-lying vineyards versus top-slope vineyards – but no vigneron can honestly say more than ‘I saw none in MY grapes’. I will avoid the temptation to link the many, many photos showing grape waste and even fermentation vats showing bugs. Interestingly one (very honest) en-primeur offer (from the UK) quotes Thierry Brouhin of Lambrays noting that there were lots of the bugs ‘but we were ready, and removed boxes of them with the vibrating table’ – I see that this is a wine of some conjecture on the various fora – but I haven’t tasted it. I have other pictures from Morey with very many bugs below the triage table, but some other producers in Morey say that they saw none – it could be – if they managed their vines differently and the food supply for the bugs was more limited. NB And for those that say ‘if it’s bugs, it can’t be limited to just two vintages as they are around all the time’ I have exceptional bottles from other vintages too (1978, 2000, 2009) that show exactly the same character. Based on the 1978 plus published studies, pyrazines (it seems) are not for fading.
- OKAY, BUT THE ‘CHARACTER’, WHERE PRESENT, IS ON A MUCH LOWER LEVEL THAN 2004. Yes, most of my notes show ~P2 when noted – but at this stage seven years ago NOBODY was talking about such a taint (including paid for critics that still don’t see it). There are two potential explanations for that; either the taint is actually worse in 2011, or we are now looking for it. Anyway, the character of 2004 took some time to peak so neither you nor I know where this will end up – it could even diminish(?) – You see I dismiss nothing!
*I graduated in Chemistry in 1988 and was elected a chartered member of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1993 (I lapsed when I stopped paying the subscription ;-)) and was an active research chemist in ‘industry’ for 13 years, and continued to direct research projects as late as 2007.
Discussion: For every vigneron that doesn’t like the bug theory, there are as many others that believe it to be the root cause – those ‘in the business’ rarely seem to quote that latter population. I won’t list them all to save them embarrassment, etcetera, (but you can read about many of them in my book – both persuasions are represented, I support a broad church with my cash!) I anyway don’t need to call on any gurus to try to dismiss or underline what I’m writing, because it is simply observation and inference; remember I just write what I taste and see because I love doing it, there is no financial motive.
Today I discussed the subject, over lunch, with ‘the boss’ of the home domaine where I’ve harvested (triaged the fruit) each year since 2004; he felt that there actually were more of the bugs in 2004 than 2011, that said, he spent more time in the vines, I spent more time at the sorting table – my impression was the reverse. Many people have noted that the wines of the ‘home domaine’ were largely free from the 2004 taint (there were a few wines with some character, but not too aggressive – I remember at least a Latricières) – with total modesty I declared that this was down to my triage efforts 😉 But what could be the explanation?
As Claude Kolm has noted in the forum of this site, vibrating tables are more common now than in 2004. At our home domaine we have a pretty effective vibrating table before we sort the fruit; in 2011, as previous images have demonstrated, it was very effective at removing the critters – though I still saw some in the fermentation tanks (of-course, they fly!). Partly I think this table could have been less effective in 2004 because of the wetter, stickier, more rotten fruit that needed so much triage – the vibrating table would have had to work much harder to dislodge them – potentially more ending up in the fermentation tanks. And if you didn’t have such a table…
The boss also notes that at his ‘other domaine’ there is no separate vibrating table, rather the whole triage table itself vibrates, and he thinks that (maybe) this is less effective in removing the bugs(?)
Anyway, I think a domaine hoping for clean wines absolutely had an advantage if a vibrating table was part of their set-up in 2011. I should start asking. As a side-note, the boss (who has a sensitive nose!) thinks all the reds currently clean at the home domaine, but one wine hasn’t escaped (according to him, not me) and it’s a white which came in as must: It’s the only wine which we didn’t put through the vibrating table and probably everything was pneumatically pressed – flora and fauna!