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in conversation with jean-marie fourrier

A thoroughly absorbing series based on one interview by Brooklynguy – part three now available.

A taster from part 1:

JMF: My dad is one of the least diplomatic men you can meet, and the reputation of the wines suffered because of this. Fourrier wines had been imported to the United States for years, but then in 1986 Robert Parker came to visit my father and he said “You should use 100% new oak on your wines.” My father kicked him out of the cellar and said to him “My job is to make wine, your job is to taste it, not to tell me how to make it.”

BG: That can’t have ended well.

JMF: No, it didn’t. Parker wrote that Fourrier’s is the dirtiest cellar in Burgundy, that the yields are way too high, that the wines are not worth looking at. The reputation suffered and we stopped shipping wines to the US, as no one wanted them.

5 responses to “in conversation with jean-marie fourrier”

  1. Mark in Pernand

    A fascinating read, thanks Bill – was about to head off to bed when I saw the link – so much for an early night.

    Lots of great stuff in in the 3 pieces. Love the Parker comment but much other absorbing words.

    MG

  2. Tom Blach

    Thanks Bill, interesting having a quick look round the site as well, particularly an account of a tasting of 04s which seems to address the complexities of the current state of the vintage far better than most. And I was particularly struck by the ‘seaweed’ description, possibly even more accurate than your’ coaltar soap’.

  3. Thomas De Waen

    This “CO2 is as good as SO2” philosophy he describes scares me a little. Is that a well established scientific fact or just something he’s picked up in the late 1990s? If it’s a new method without much scientific backing, then i’ll reconsider my Fourrier purchasing habits! I’ve had a pretty disjointed 1999 CSJ recently and I understand that 2001s have had their fair share of trouble.

    Any views on this?

  4. Donald L Cornwell

    Thomas:

    I regret to have to say that Jean-Marie’s “CO2 is just as good as SO2” theory has zero scientific backing. Readking the interview, it is sadly very clear to me that JM has no understanding of the redox reactions that take place with oxidation. His comment that SO2 combines with the phenols is utterly wrong. Phenols oxidize in the presence of oxygen over time. As a by-product of the phenol oxidation process hydrogen peroxide is produced. Hydrogen peroxide is what causes the oxidation of ethanol into acetaldehyde. (These two types of oxidation — oxidation of phenols, which produces browning, and the oxidation of ethanol into acetaldehyde, are referred to as “coupled reactions.”) Molecular free SO2 interacts with the hydrogen peroxide thereby preventing the formation of acetaldehyde. S02 also can convert some of the acetaldehyde already formed into a salt that drops out, reducing oxidation of ethanol that has already taken place. Also, SO2 performs an antiseptic function killing bacteria in the wine. This helps prevent some off aromas and because it inhibits acetobacter, it helps prevent volatile acidity. (The fact that 2001 Fourrier has a recognized volatile acidity problem shouldn’t come as a surprise given JM’s admission that he uses a “tiny bit” of SO2.

    CO2 is merely a physical barrier to oxidation when the wine is in the barrel. C02 does NOT interact with hydrogen peroxide to prevent oxidation of ethanol. CO2 also has no antiseptic properties, so it does not kill bacteria or prevent volatile acidity.

    The sad reality is that substituting CO2 for SO2 is a prescription for a wine that will suffer from premature oxidation. Luckily for JM, he’s making red wines and there are tannins and anthrocyanins that help delay the oxidation process, but I fear his reds will all have a much shorter than average lifespan and we are already seeing some evidence of this with his 1995, 1998 and 1999 wines.

    He does so many other things well, and is so dedicated in trying to capture the terroir of each of his sites, it is truly a shame that he doesn’t understand the underlying chemistry better. Indeed, he is openly disdainful of the chemistry in the comments quoted in the interview. I really like Jean-Marie on a personal level, so it is a bit painful to say this. (As an aside, Given JM’s concerns with getting headaches from red wines, I am surmising he may have a histamine problem himself. )

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?