a bit of science


By billn on April 22, 2020 #a bit of science#warning - opinion!

This is an excellent read – thanks – a ‘hat-tip’ – to @bkpinot

I would only quibble with this:

“The only mention in English that I am aware of through the 70’s was Michael Broadbent’s mistaken use of it as a term for dirty or unpleasantly earthy wine.”

I would say not mistaken. Many old winemakers (ie older than 70) in Burgundy reference the term (terroir), in their youth, as implying rusticity — a ‘peasant’ wine, ‘unruly’ wine — ‘earthy’ indeed, more so than referencing site specifics. As much as anything, with the rise of marketing, you will find the rise of the current usage of that word. The meaning/context of words often changes over generations — just look at ‘gay…’

are malos bad?

By billn on April 16, 2020 #a bit of science#warning - opinion!

Like this, another interesting ‘malo’ article this week – similarly themed too, casting malolactic fermentation as a bad-guy. But Burgundy won’t take it to heart!

the great grape launderette…

By billn on February 05, 2020 #a bit of science#ladypyrazines#vineyard pestilence#warning - opinion!

bugI’m reminded of more than one conversion I had with the former winemaker in Morey St.Denis, David Clark. His 2004s and 2011s were not immune to the pyrazines of those vintages, and in the absence of other theories that convinced, he seemed pretty comfortable with the idea that the ladybirds/bugs might be the responsible party.

David was (probably still is) an incurable the inventor/engineer, proposing that maybe the solution was to wash the grapes before they hit the fermentation tanks – he was pretty sure that the environment of the cuverie would harbour enough yeast strains to get the fermentations done, assuming that those populations on the grapes themselves might be washed away. Some other winemakers seemed less convinced of that latter point – but given not many ladybugs since 2011 – it’s a thought that has faded.

I note that in some vintages, Bouchard Père et Fils has ‘sort-of‘ their own grape washing approach; letting the first part of the first press wash away as it contains all the dirt accumulated on the grapes. But an automatic wash for the grapes it isn’t.

Enter the most recent vintages chez Château Thivin; an Italian friend of Claude Geoffray has been using such a washing system for grapes that go into their local bubbles. Claude decided to give it a try. The grapes are hit by high-pressure water before travelling over a vibrating table to remove the larger drops, then a high-pressure air-flow to dry the grapes. “It doesn’t just get rid of the insects,” says Claude, “In the most recent vintages there has been no rain, so the accumulated treatments of the summer are undoubtedly still present on the grapes – copper, sulfur, etcetera.

Claude confirms that his recent fermentations have been fine – ‘normal‘ – whereas most producers in the last vintages describe fragility in their fermentations, and a couple have even suggested to me that it could be the accumulation of copper still on the grapes that bears some responsibility. Claude is still waiting the analyses of the chemical levels in his ‘wash-water,’ but it’s fair to say he’s been very happy with the results; “It was clear that many of the grapes had an accumulation of something from the vintages that didn’t taste nice before washing – after they were fine.

For the moment, Claude and the team at Châateau Thivin may be the only winemakers using this tool in France – but with results like this, it seems a modest investment in quality – even without ladybugs!

‘understanding’ minerality…

By billn on October 04, 2019 #a bit of science#other sites

From their excellent ‘Science’ series, here is a well-written and information-packed, but not too long(!) read. Enjoy:


icymi: a good, and growing, wine-science library…

By billn on May 17, 2019 #a bit of science#in case you missed it

The sulfur chemistry article is new – yesterday. I’m finding this a good resourse of well-presented, relatively accessible, wine science articles:

glyphosate – ‘a gift from god’

By billn on August 13, 2018 #a bit of science

This is a very important principle.

Properly used, in the dosages recommended, there are no reputable scientific studies that point to a cancer link with glyphosate. Not yet anyway! The single study (in over 40 years of studies) that suggests a link between the two has been accused of cherry-picking some data and avoiding contrary data. That’s why there is peer review of science, not courts of law to decide such things. The recent award of almost $290 million is a travesty, sorry as the case of the individal is.

Let’s be clear about this, I don’t condone the use of Roundup where expensive wines are produced, it is not just lazy, it is indecently money-grabbing when there are so many alternative manual approaches. But this particular molecule has benefited millions, if not billions of people and animals when it comes to the production of basic foodstuffs. Monsanto are an easy target, indeed they are a deserved target for some of their approaches, practices, and some other of their products, but a CEO of that company once described Glyphosate as ‘a gift from god,’ and, so-far, there is no credible evidence to the contrary…

chardonnay – as you’ve never seen it before!

By billn on June 05, 2018 #a bit of science

Way back in 2010 I had a contact in Basel who did, and still does, some extra-ordinary work with his electron microscope. Dr Martin Oeggerli has been published worldwide by the BBC, National Geographic, Nature and so many others. See here: www.micronaut.ch

Having seen so a lot of his work with plants I asked if he would like to do the same with some pinot and chardonnay from Burgundy – we also collected some aligoté and gamay. I thought if the images were as great as I expected, then I could do a nice sideline, selling special fine-art prints of the images – they would have been expensive, but hey!

I recruited a certain David Clark, formerly of Morey St.Denis, to collect samples at flowering – and then passed on the phials to Martin in Basel.

As it turned out, for quite some time afterwards Martin was simply snowed-under with publishing work, then my own position became complicated after the company where I worked was acquired. I saw some interesting black and white images from Martin but colouration – and all such images that you see require many, many hours of colouration – was put on the back-burner and eventually forgotten – by me – but seemingly not Martin!

Today he sent me this great image – “Bill. Today, I finished a picture from a sample you originally provided back in 2010 (Chardonnay; enclosed)… hope you like it.” Now how cool is that?

We had a short conversation which I will include so that you may understand what you’re seeing:

Me: “Is that the tip from the flower, post fertilisation?

Martin: “Exactly. To me, the stigma looks pretty fresh. I guess, it is showing the tip of the pistil (with the stigma in red) during, or just very shortly after fertilization. One pollen grain has hydrated and grows a pollen tube across the stigma. Since I am working on a project on plant tissue I was digging in the archive…



By billn on December 23, 2016 #a bit of science

When even a (non-French) winemaker asks me what I mean by ‘agrumes’ in my tasting notes, then I realise that I’m using a ‘too Frenchie’ term in an Anglo-Saxon context, and I need to explain. I’ve added the following to my ‘Technical Glossary‘ page:

Agrume is the type of fruit that can range from orange to grapefruit – and everything in-between.* An agrume desert is normally a mix of orange, mandarin, grapefruit et-cetera. Agrume reduction or ‘noble reduction‘ (as is the current phrase-du-jour) is the Roulot style of white wine reduction that (everyone is trying to mimic today) has a grapefruit-style aromatic and even flavour, yet is (technically) closely associated with a modest reduction.
*Agrume fruits: Bergamot, Bigarade, Calamondin, Chedrat, Citrandarin, Citrange, Citrumelo, Clementine, Clemenvilla, Combava, Grapefruit, Kumquat, Lemon, Lime, Limette, Mandarin, Orange, Pomelo, Tangelo, Tangerine, Tangor, Ugli, Yuzu

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