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decanter and ‘early onset oxidation’…

I just did something that I haven’t done for years – I bought a copy of Decanter.

Intruiged by the summary of their story on the Decanter website I decided to see what passes for cutting-edge wine journalism. First I have to say that the magazine is more impressive than the website – but what wouldn’t be hard given that the latter is a ‘mere’ promotional tool, riddled with advertisements and pop-ups. Apart from the news service and some of the ‘blogs’ their website is largely to be avoided and certainly no thing of beauty.

Returning to premature oxidation – or early onset oxidation as the BIVB prefer to describe it – for such an important subject it is worth asking ‘what took so long to publicly air this subject?’, the article’s first line says it all:

In the early 2000s it became apparent that something was going wrong…

Cool, so it only took them 11 years to take it seriously! – and also ‘why such an apologetic mention at the foot of the cover-page?’ This seems to imply that it’s the least worthy contribution after producers from Chile and Argentina, a selection of Italian wines and ‘your guide to’ Florence, Alsace and the Loire. Okay, gripe(s) over, now let’s look at the article.

Stephen Brook seemingly shoots himself in the foot before he event starts; the subtitle below the apt title (Gambling on white Burgundy) announcing

But many, less than 15 years old, are aged in such a random matter that experts cannot pinpoint the cause.

Did Stephen discuss any of the BIVB’s research with them? Of-course the cause (it is currently believed) is the higher oxidation potential of the base wines – let’s be charitable and assume what Stephen was meaning was, what is the underlying cause of that(?!)

Broadly thereafter is a decent discussion of the variables concerned, coupled with the thoughts/conjectures of a number of winemakers, including Jeremy Seysses, Caroline l’Estimé, Franck Grux, Patrick Javillier, Vincent Girardin and Jacques Lardière – the downside of their opinions is exemplified by a bit of puff from the outgoing winemaker of Jadot

But not long ago in Texas I ran a tasting of our whites from top sites from vintages in the late 1990s and the wines were impeccable.

Fine, but what does that mean given the context that the post-2000 wines of Jadot seem to be some of the most consistently p.oxed wines ‘out there’? Lardière also likes to try to deflect a little criticism by pointing out ‘it’s not just Burgundy’ – somehow missing the point that it is just Burgundy who charge €50-€500 for their whites. The merchant perspective is given by Jasper Morris who says

I’m not saying you won’t find oxidised bottles these days, but the problem is hugely reduced.

Not quite the same as Stephen Brook’s short-hand of Jasper’s words “(Jasper) believes the problem has been cracked.” If Jasper is positively inclined, I’m not even close to convinced. At-least not until empirical evidence suggests otherwise.

Overall a very late contribution to the debate, but welcome all the same in that it brings a wider exposure to this highly important issue. Stephen Brook does indeed put the majority of the salient points onto the table, my real criticism is only that he lists many comments from people whose living is made by selling these wines, but offers no balancing arguments or experience-based analysis of his own, except;

Certainly there is evidence to suggest that the problem is, if not ‘cured’, then far less prevalent than a decade ago.

Really? What is this ‘evidence’? Taking the Jadot example, and they are not alone, they seem to be in a much worse position than a decade ago…

4 responses to “decanter and ‘early onset oxidation’…”

  1. Martin

    Hi Bill,

    Unfortunately your last quote from the article is as common in journalism as the use of the word ‘like’ in a conversation of young Americans. Both are exceedingly irritating.

    Love your work.

    Martin

  2. Claude Kolm

    “But many, less than 15 years old, are prematurely aged . . . ” is misleading, too, suggesting that the problem doesn’t come about until the wines are considerably older than the 5-6 years where it in fact begin to show.

  3. Tom Blach

    Jasper thinks that oxidation is not necessarily a permanent state, and says he has actually seen brown wines become pristine with air. I hope he doesn’t object if I say that I am not entirely convinced, having tried to reverse the oxidation on countless bottles.

  4. Job van der Geest

    In February I met Jasper Morris at a tasting and asked him how he evaluated the risk of premox over the last couple of years. He indeed responded optimistically and stated that most producers had altered their wine making techniques for the better. He predicted a revolution in the quality of white burgundy in the next years, very much comparable to what we have seen with red Burgundy’s in the ninety’s.

    I am convinced that he tasted more then enough wines to make a well based judgement, if anything far more then I did, and don’t intend to question is knowledge on this subject.
    But I’m afraid I need more prove, just like Bill states.
    I stopped buying the whites older then say 2005. But even then I keep being disappointed. Last Thursday a Meursault Genevriere 2005 from a good (but not great) producer was already more than halfway on the way to total premox. There was still some fruit and it showed enough typical Genevriere spiciness, but none the less was a waste of money and doesn’t make me run to the shop for more Whites.

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