Both pictures and explanations!

By billn on January 22, 2023 #ladypyrazines#picture gallery#site updates#travels in burgundy 2023

Vaudesir to the left, Vaudesir & Moutonne to the right...
Vaudesir to the left, Vaudesir & Moutonne to the right…

A chilly week in Chablis and the Côte d’Or too this week and weekend – I offer you a small gallery of the sights.

But first, a couple of readers have asked some questions and also for some help in deciphering some of the ‘codes’ that I use in my descriptions and reports. These are things that have built up over the years, or are shorthand when taking notes that I don’t always remember to return to ‘long-hand!’ But every now and then it’s worth a little explanation because not everyone has been coming here for years and years 🙂

Agrumes: I had always assumed that agrume was also an English-language word but it seems I may have been mistaken and that it is predominantly found in the Latin tongues. Simply put, it is citrus but it actually covers the whole family of citrus fruits. For this reason, I may sometimes refer to more green-shaded agrumes (lots of lime or lime skin) or orange/mandarin but the effect can also be shaded more to grapefruit or even some complexity of all. The Latin languages have definitions that are more open to ‘interpretation’ than the Germanic-derived ones 🙂 Some white vintages are marked by ‘agrume bitters‘, so without extra info, you can translate that ‘simply’ as a zesty, citrus-skin type of bitterness.

Do you ever feel that a bit of oak can contribute to the overall ‘quality’ of a wine? Or are you averse to all manifestations of oak?” That’s a great question! We all have our own preferences, and whilst I would always prefer to taste the wine, rather than the containers in which it has been raised (elevage,) some aspects that come from the oak distract me less than others. Oak with a strong toast is much rarer than was once the case – overt vanilla too – which is good for me – I don’t want either of those in my glass. The more creamy accents that can come from the barrel distract me much less and I can say the same – within limits – for those spicy notes that you more often find with reds. I do believe that the barrels contribute to more impressive wines of additional longevity – but a deft hand that can expertly meld the aromas and flavours of the wood would always be my preference. It’s not just the organoleptic (smell-flavour) aspects of the wines that are altered by the barrels though – it is the shape and texture of the wines too… But a strongly oaked wine that I wouldn’t want to drink young (because of that strong aroma or flavour) can still be a very great wine if you have sufficient patience. You need a reviewer that can put ‘the now’ to one side and still be able to say that they think that a particular wine will still be great.

Do ‘the greens’ that you have found so often in 2020 white Burgundies ever go away or is it a mark that always persists?” To offer a little more focus – I have found these pyrazines in the wines of the Côtes d’Auxere – including Chablis – so some red to go with a lot of white. There were occasional reds in both Beaujolais and the Côte d’Or too – but relatively rare – I did not note these greens in whites from any other region. If the reds of 2004 and 2011 are to be used as benchmarks, then the pyrazine notes that I am sensitive to, are stable. The 2020 Chablis that I have re-tasted in the last two weeks are worse – more overt – than was the case one year ago.

You cite the common reaction to them as occurring in 80% of tasters – do the remaining 20% have no adverse effects whatsoever & should they all rush out & buy up the 2020 vintage Chablis?” You got that ‘back-to-front’ – it’s only about 10% of tasters that are sensitive – anecdotally, more often, it is women that have this extra sensitivity. The rest can and should rush out to buy what is otherwise a well-constructed, fine vintage for Chablis.

Gothic & WC: WC is a shorthand that I often use interchangeably for whole-clusters or whole-bunches or ‘stems.’ I sometimes refer to the effect of wc on the wine being a little gothic. By that I mean, darker, more structural – indeed a bit austere too – so in this case it means with some herbal aspects and more drying tannin. This was visible in the 2021 wines at a few important domaines – but far from all – some domaines made gorgeously perfumed wines even with 100% use of whole clusters…

Okay a few images from the last 6-7 days, enjoy:

Chablis 2020 pyrazines – mea-culpa

By billn on August 01, 2022 #degustation#ladypyrazines

Mea culpa because I feel remorse that I should have emphasised this even more in my reports:

I did, however, warn you (my subscribers) with my chapter “The small sting in the tail of 2020 white burgundy” and subsequent discussion in my January report – but, truth be told, like this summer, the situation has moved on from an occasional mosquito bite to something of a wasp-problem…

It’s not quite the hornet’s nest of a problem that we saw with the reds of the 2004 vintage – these 2020 Chablis remain, essentially, drinkable – but if you are sensitive to this chemical then you will be, like me, in a state of constant distraction.

2-Methoxy-3-isobutyl-pyrazineIn my January trip to Chablis, I visited 64 domaines and found a little more than 10% of the wines to be tainted with ‘the green.‘ In March I returned and visited another 20 domaines and this time I would say that more than half of the domaines had some green wines. Last week in Chablis I tasted a couple of grand crus that were free of the taint in January but that’s no longer the case. In my January report, a number of winemakers suggested the possible reason for these pyrazines.

Right now, I would say that almost all 2020s that I am opening at home are starting to show these notes – an evolution that recalls what happened with the 2004 reds. The problem is widespread across the Auxerois – red and white – but not (yet!) 100%.

In the Côte d’Or I have noted in my reports some reds with plenty of pyrazine – isolated in general so with a significantly lower occurance than (I initially found) in the whites of Chablis. Of course, those reds were tasted back in my October-December tastings but recent bottles remain fine. I haven’t noted any greens – that I can recall – in the whites of the Côte d’Or or further south in Chalonnaise/Mâconnais.

That’s about it for now – but I would most definitely taste before I buy today – your possibilities for that will vary…

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!

to be, or not to be, 2004…

By billn on November 05, 2014 #degustation#ladypyrazines

I know, I know, ‘here we go again’ you are thinking. Well yes, and no…

I’ve actually tried a few very good 2004s in the last days – I looked very hard at them, but found nothing amiss. So everything’s alright now say some. Hold your horses say I! The three wines that were fine, in every way, have not suddenly got better and lost their pyrazines – not as far as I know anyway – because I’d never tasted these wines before (as far as I remember) so I don’t know how good or bad they were before. But let’s be fair to those good wines and note them here, because I’d happily drink all three again:

2004 Domaine Lafon, Volnay 1er Champans
2004 Domaine Denis Mortet, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Lavaux St.Jacques
2004 Maison Lucien Le Moine, Clos St.Denis

But all is still not rosy. On Saturday, a gathering of friends delivered many bottles; some great, some sad, some in-between – it also, most importantly, delivered a great evening. It wasn’t at my house, so I’m not responsible – but I know all-too-well the urge, late in the evening to finish the evening off (maybe ;-)) with something special. So it was with our host: He returned with a magnum in a blind-tasting sock. My pour looked young in the glass but -ouf! – smelled strongly of pyrazines. I immediately said ‘2011!’ As I slowly pulled up the ‘sock’ I read the words Clos de Tart. I was pretty shocked – why would anyone open such a young magnum? But soon I found I was wrong, it wasn’t 2011, it was the 2004 in the headline image above. Okay, now I’m no-longer mad with my host – maybe there is a case for opening magnums of 2004! I was fooled by the young colour and the silky freshness of the wine – hard to believe a wine in such great, young condition was a 2004. It was also a great wine; a German winemaker amongst our number loved it but could also see and taste the character. But it was strong enough that (not only) I couldn’t enjoy it.

So another 2004 I hadn’t tasted before – but this time with a different result. Is the difference in this case only the format, and the relative youth of this wine, whilst all the others are getting older and better? Well, let’s see. Every couple of years I retest a number of retained bottles – but that’s not due until early 2016…

But let’s not forget a great evening:

By the way:
1999 Roulot Bourgogne surprisingly fresh if a little rich – did somebody really say Corton-Charlemagne?
1993 Leflaive Bourgogne – brilliant, but (very!) unfortunately, it was my last. My white of the night.
Thevenot 1979 was just lovely in that indeterminable age-ness thing.
JM Vincent’s 2010 Auxey was also lovely – as would have been expected, if everything wasn’t blind! I couldn’t make my mind up if was Puligny or St.Aubin…
2003 Pommard was, well, quite nice and I can’t remember what I guessed, but not 2003.
Swiss Wolfer? I really didn’t like – I said Beaujolais as I thought carbonic maceration but really couldn’t place it in Burgundy (go figure…!)
1994 Drouhin Musigny? Given the general poorness of the vintage, this triumphed to be wine of the night – I thought it a rather beautiful 1985!
2008 Claude Dugat Gevrey was a wine I could drink all night – yes the acidity of 08 but like biting into fresh fruit – almost my (red) wine of the night.
JM Pillot’s 2009 in isolation would have been nice enough, but in this company – particularly set against the Dugat, it was simply too full and too ripe to take a second glass.
Dominique Laurent’s 1998 Gevrey Cazetiers – completely and overwhelmingly corked – ouf!
Gaunoux Pommard – I forget it – I think it may also have been corked!
Jadot’s 1993 Clos des Corvées is at it’s first plateau of maturity – it is lovely and still with a bite of Premeaux tannin…
Dubiously labelled Clos St.Denis – villages standard wine, maybe…
Jean-Michel Guillon’s 2003 (I think!) Gevrey VV – tasty but but a lot of funkiness on the nose…
Denis Mortet’s 2004 Lavaux was lovely, cushioned, fine wine.
Clos de Tart 2004 – well you already know – for some people, great wine.
Benoit’s Tante Berthe – well, it wasn’t really a great tribute to him – a bit hot with unbalanced, spiky acidity – shame.
And to finish, 2005 Francois Jobard’s Meursault Genevrières – now that was a nice wine!

wine faults seminar 15th may in london…

By billn on April 25, 2014 #a bit of science#ladypyrazines

It seems that half a dozen places are still open for this seminar, so if you’re both interested and available, please directly email andrea.warren at

“Pyrazine in the Burgundy: could it really be the ladybirds?”

Bill Nanson has had derision and support from winemakers in almost equal measure for his theory about the ailment that affects 2004 and 2011 red Burgundies, and the basis of this will be explored and no-doubt extensively challenged during this discussion. But it seems that a minority of people can taste and smell this aspect of those vintages – or is that simply because they haven’t been properly introduced to it(?) During this discussion we may find out, with four examples from very well-known and admired producers, some false positives, and some fun exhibits that may or may not support Nanson’s contention…


Bill Nanson’s “Wine Faults” seminar

Date: Thursday 15th May, 2014

Timing: 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm

Venue: WSET, International Wine & Spirit Centre

39-45 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XF

Cost: £15 per member (£35 for non-members)

wine faults seminar (ladybirds, ladybugs…?)

By billn on March 08, 2014 #diary dates#ladypyrazines


If anyone is interested to join-in this, drop me a line asap – and I’ll pass it on – there are only 3 bottles of each wine (there are a number of wines) so I’m guessing it might be limited to ~50(?)

Dear wine enthusiast

The Circle of Wine Writers’ committee has been in recent contact with Bill Nanson * regarding holding a seminar on wine faults. To quote a fellow Circle member, Clive Coates MW, Bill “is a gifted and experienced amateur… He is more than just a moderate or immoderate imbiber of good bottles. He knows his stuff.” However before we proceed with this seminar we would like to gauge interest as to whether this is feasible. The details are as below and we would be grateful if you could let us know:

a: if you would like to attend this and can make the 15th May


b: if you are keen to attend such a seminar but the 15th May is not convenient.

Pyrazine in the Burgundy: could it really be the ladybirds?

Bill Nanson has had derision and support from winemakers in almost equal measure for his theory about the ailment that affects 2004 and 2011 red Burgundies, and the basis of this will be explored and no-doubt extensively challenged during this discussion. But it seems that a minority of people can taste and smell this aspect of those vintages – or is that simply because they haven’t been properly introduced to it(?) During this discussion we may find out, with four examples from very well-known and admired producers, some false positives, and some fun exhibits that may or may not support Nanson’s contention…

Date: Thursday 15 May

Timing: 1.30-3.30 pm

Venue: WSET, Bermondsey St, London, SE1

Tickets: £35 non-CWW members

We would be grateful if you could let us know as soon as possible, or by Monday 10 March, if you would be keen to come along to this thought provoking seminar (on the 15th May or another date)

louis max 2011 mercurey clos la marche

By billn on July 25, 2013 #degustation#ladypyrazines

Well, the white was just so good, there was nothing stopping me here – perhaps there should have been!

2011 Louis Max, Mercurey Clos la Marche
Medium, bright red colour, edged with salmon pink. It seems that its southern geography was not enough save this wine from a little pyrazine; it starts, seemingly, with none before slowly growing in the glass to at least a P2 level; to start with, there were other aromas, but by now they are hidden from me. In the mouth this is relatively lite but it’s also lithe and concertedly insinuates nice flavours that leech from your gums and tongue – it’s good acidity too. There seems to be much going for this until I finally get some pyrazine flavour too – I’m clearly the wrong person to review what is otherwise probably a very nice wine.
Rebuy – No


By billn on January 14, 2013 #a bit of science#ladypyrazines

Prompted by Mark over in our forum:

Perhaps I should invent a ‘hashtag’ – #ladypyrazines anyone?

(2011) coccinelle

By billn on January 12, 2013 #a bit of science#ladypyrazines#other sites

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 😉

  1. 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…
  2. 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!
  3. 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!)
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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!
  7. *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!

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