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p.ox? or the disturbing whiff of the emperor’s new clothes…

pox-australian-pox
A picture whose orign I would cite, but it’s been on my hard-drive for so long I can’t remember!
Anyway, p.ox, Aussie-style…

This piece, posted yesterday by Tyler Coleman on Winesearcher is at first glance a ‘holding story’ about p.ox; one that keeps (justifiably) the story in the (wine-)public conscious, and perhaps brings a new angle or two to the story, adding a little red-scare-mongering, but essentially, nothing new.

Nothing new except, perhaps, a fairytale flashback due to a quote from the University of Bordeaux’s Denis Dubourdieu (a.k.a. ‘the Emperor’)

“Vines that are too weak, and with a poor nitrogen intake, produce grapes low in glutathione. Summer drought conditions and/or competition from grass left to grow between the vine rows also worsens this deficit,” he explains.

This statement immediately struck a chord in my mind, being a paraphrasing of the reason that leading scientists (of the day) attributed to the death of vines due to phylloxera – it wasn’t the bug that was directly responsible, phylloxera was only having an effect because the vines were already tired or diseased! I mean, is this the best that we can expect from academics (with strong financial ties!) these days? Of-course Tyler Coleman may be short-changing us, and Prof. Dubourdieu might have full data to back up exactly what age a vine becomes tired, and due to what level of competition from grass, or ‘how much drought’ causes a problem – though, by the way, my 1976 whites are still brilliant, and I’ve never seen a p.oxed 2003 despite plenty of otherwise bizarre ones!

Maybe Denis has a real point somewhere along the line, and can explain why vines are tired today when they weren’t 30 years ago, and why his quote only looks bad because it’s out of context and has been dumbed down… Maybe…

As a scientist, I’m simply taken aback!

2 responses to “p.ox? or the disturbing whiff of the emperor’s new clothes…”

  1. Tom Blach

    I’m still looking for a poxed 03 too, though I wonder if it’s the simple fact that one comes across so few that has meant that we don’t see them.
    A much more interesting vintage in both red and white than at first thought, it seems to me.

  2. Don Cornwell

    I agree Bill. Absolutely nothing new in the article. This could have been written 6 years ago.

    The Dubourdieu theory simply doesn’t hold up in light of the empirical evidence. If the theory worked as advertised, we would see some vintages essentially free from premox (which hasn’t happened once since 1995) and the incidence of premox would be the highest in vintages like 1976 and 2003, in which, as you and Tom point out, while hardly typical white burgundies didn’t suffer from premox.

    But there are other obvious inconsistencies too. The theory as espoused by Michael Bettane and others is that the adoption of method biodynamie and lutte raisonée, which eliminate the use of herbicides and grow grass between the rows, lowers glutathione levels. But these proponents can’t explain why one of the earliest and most outspoken proponents of method biodynamie, Domaine Leroy/d’Auvennay,has essentially zero incidence of premox. Moreover, if the theory worked,rates of premox should be consistent between producers who use method biodynamie or lutte raisonée and yet there are huge variations in the incidence of premox among producers. In short, there’s just no real world data to support this or any of the other exoitic cause theories.

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