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(2011) coccinelle

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!

16 responses to “(2011) coccinelle”

  1. bmcq

    Where do I send my $500?

  2. Tom blach

    Stick to your guns, Bill. Nobody has the right to an opinion more than you do, even though I look forward to sharing some delicious 04s with you in the future!

  3. Phil Eaves

    Hi Bill, it aways saddens me to hear when an independant voice is being overwhelmed by the rush of intolerance. Please continue to hold your line, I like to read all the opinions though for my part I must admit to not being so sensative to the problem, unlike the raw greenness one sometimes finds, but more than happy to listen to those who are, and then I can at least avoiding serving to my friends who may take against it. cheers Phil

  4. Mark in Pernand

    Bill, let me know where to send the first 100 Euros – but I prefer you to stay an amateur :-).

    Otherwise:-
    1) Many thanks for this piece – don’t think you’ve succinctly missed anything out;
    2) ‘Tis a pity for me you had to spend the time, as the amateur you are, when I’m sure you are busy enough, having to restate what you have.

    But we are of shared minds I think re certain wine fora and indeed only yesterday, after mulling matters at length, did I feel compelled to just factually post on one forum about the 2011 incidence of ladybirds from my experience in response to some comments from someone not, as far as i know in the trade, quoting a certain producer at length decrying the ladybird issue. I’ll say no more about that as I might say something I shouldn’t !

    You know where I stand though I think and why. You know I’ll recognise information you refer to in your piece. I’m not going to restate here the issues you cogently refer to above but in summary for me perhaps:-

    Everyone’s palate is their palate and your’s is your’s – no one shoud object for you, on your website, factually and honestly ‘reporting’ what your palate tells you. Well, I suppose they might object but………………..;-)

    At this stage of the game in 2004 and as best as I recall no one remotely saw the taint issues to the extent that then emerged over time. You’ve made this point but worth restating as, to lots of folk (without your experience and palate) they will not ‘get’ anything amiss with 2011 – if indeed things do become more ‘amiss’ in months/years to come. Doesn’t help informed buying decisions perhaps but isn’t that burgundy ?

    I’ve lots of notes from the London week last week (would rather have been where you have though !) and since coming home have not had the chance to make sense of yet and go through. I’ll try and do that this week and pick out wines which to me had “interesting” flavours & post results/thoughts on the BR Forum.

    Meantime don’t let the b…..s ‘ grind you down ;-)))). Don’t know why I said that as I know you won’t !!!

    On a separate note from coccinelle taints later today I’m going to ‘dance with the premox devil’ by opening a Bonneau du Martray 1997 Corton-Charlemagne………………bets ?

    Cheers.

    M

  5. Mark B

    Bill, as far as I am concerned you are right, and you should stick to your guns about there being a problem: there were some lovely wines last week, and others amongst them that had a hard medicinal green taint. I am fully prepared to accept that the taint was caused by cocinelle. I noticed some wines as well that had been scalped by sulphur to mask the taint on the nose, but the hard greenness was there on the palate and the wines felt odd and very disjointed. It seems to me that the problem depends on the vigneron, and those who are meticulous produced wines of poise and elegance. I’ve read many of the offers as well, and sometimes I could not reconcile those comments there with the wines I have tasted. For those who are unsure about what to avoid I would say don’t assume a bit of toughness is just tannin, particularly if the nose is closed off or medicinal. And thank you Bill for your independence of mind and a willingness to broach issues that others wish to avoid.

    Cheers
    MB

  6. burgundyfan

    Hi Bill just don’t let you pushed down. You know I like your writing very much. When I think back to the 2004 in bottle we decided not to buy as much as in other years. We bought by each of our vigneron some bottles(less than 30% as usual) but not as much as from 2003 and 2005. I drank most of them. There is still one 2004 Echezaux from Coquard-Loison in my cellar. I was looking at my notes from tasting there out of the barrel.
    We was very impressed than, but all my 6 Clos de la Roche had that bad taste in it.
    For the 2011 we had a very great tasting(out of barrel) by Morot and Cyrot and by both that are wonderful great wines.
    We will see how the wine is when it is bottled. Either we will go to Strassburg(15.-18.2) or in April 2 days to the Burgundy.
    Best greetings and stay tuned
    Pablo

  7. Rick Dalia

    Just another vote of confidence to you Bill. There are no EP tastings here in SF, USA though maybe I’ll get to sample some from one of my favorite domaines this thursday at an event and will post my impressions if appropriate.

    Opinion or study holds much more weight from an independent source. These days I must rely on the medical literature, most of which is sponsered by drug companies that manufacture the medication in question. A shame.

    In regards to the recent 2011 chatter, I’m not saying the viewpoints expressed by those in the biz are disingenuous but I’m sleeping with one eye open.

  8. ed

    Your independent view is the very thing that makes this site so valuable. Do not be swayed. Your readers apprieciate your candour as much as your palate.

  9. coilycodpeace

    Bill
    I’d take the interest in your views as a big compliment, despite the workload that it appears to have created. I am more interested and convinced by somebody such as yourself who spends a lot of time in the region tasting, talking, listening and learning than some UK based wine journalist who might visit the area once or twice a year, do the 2 week madness that is the UK En Primeur tastings and then prophesize to everybody that there word is law.

    When I visited in November every producer said that there were large numbers of bugs whether they were on the bunches, in the winery or the vineyard. I didn’t pick up any taint tasting from the barrel in November but I am not foolish to think that it doesn’t exist. I went to four London En Primeur tastings last week and certainly many wines tasted quite green/leafy, although the in some cases that same wine at a tasting the following day tasted quite different.

    As a consumer where does that leave me; who knows! The En Primeur tastings are fun but give you very little guide as to how the wines will turn out as most of them have not even been bottled yet, and how fresh are the samples anyway. At the end of the day should I be really worried? If the wines turn out to have issues I’ll just send them back to the merchant that I purchased them from and get a refund.

    Of course the merchants have a vested interest in all this; they want to sell the wines at the end of the day.

    Keep up the great work; this site is an invaluable resource and long may it continue.

    All the best
    Mark

  10. Don Cornwell

    Bill

    As always, you’re doing all of us a great service and I sincerely appreciate it. Please stay fiercely independent. We’re already surrounded by way too many critics who pull their punches, fail to condemn obviously flawed wines and at best leave negative comments to a subtle inference because they’re afraid of losing access.

    I can’t help thinking of the parallels with premox and how many producers insisted for years that their wines didn’t have premox problems. In fact, that there are way too many who are still in that category, many of whom are the worst offenders on an annual basis.

  11. Peter Kibler

    Here in Maryland an insect commonly called the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) was believed to have been introduced around 15 years ago from Asia and has become a significant crop pest. When threatened, or handled roughly, it emits a very particular strong bitter, pungent, “green” scent. They are now causing farmers here, including the few vineyards we have, significant problems. As in burgundy, we also have the asiatic ladybug, which has been quickly replacing the the native ladybug population.

    I mention the stink bug because a week or so ago I was removing one from our house and it left it’s particular odor on me. Later, as I was eating, I licked my finger and could still strongly taste the scent of the bug I had removed hours earlier. This was despite washing my hands vigorously. It struck me how extremely similar this flavor was to two recently disposed bottles of 2004 Leroy Bourgogne which I literally had to spit out upon tasting. I have also had bad luck with 75% of the 04 reds I have drunk, and it seems to me the problem had become more acute, or at least more obvious, as the wines have gotten older.

    I don’t know if the stinkbug has invaded Europe, or whether the chemical defenses in the ladybug and stinkbug are very similiar, but I think you’re on the something here, and I appreciate your discussion of it. The industry has a vested interest in selling wine, and either consciously or unconsciously minimizing things that get in the way of achieving that goal. I am a consumer of wine and I appreciate any warnings of any potential problems that I can get. Thanks for your efforts.

  12. Sycamore

    Echoing other comments here. Bill — words are inadequate to express my gratitude for the work you do here — its the best thing going on the web related to Burgundy in my view. To borrow from someone who posted recently on the Forum, I’m a “10” on the pyrazine sensitivity scale, so any word of caution in that regard is worth its weight in gold.

  13. me

    Many growers agree that there should be tonnes of the insect to clearly contaminate the wine.
    No scientist proof for that accusation to the bug has been published yet.

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

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