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Monday night wine madness

I haven’t drunk Meursault for years, so decided in a moment of madness to open this chap.
Slight reduction on the nose, tight on the palate but stacked full of citrus with a touch of nutty buttery background.
It needs at least another 18 months.

Wax capsule… a question for @Toby.Morrhall :

Have you noticed any developments in white Burgundy in terms of vinification that are designed to counter the premature oxidation issues? For example, more use of reductive winemaking?

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I am not Toby, but i understood that Diam closures have been the biggest anti-premox weapon
Keen to know about vinification as an anti-premox technique !

I get the distinct impression Toby has strong feelings on Diam corks. I think Toby once mentioned that the Society lost half a million pounds’ worth of white burgundy to premox in one year.

I think - but am not Toby, who will no doubt have a lot more to say - it’s what’s UNDER the capsule that matters. Cork = potential TCA taint, hence TWS are encouraging synthetic corks…

Got to commend Mersault Monday!

I was never convinced that the prem-ox issue was down to corks. If a winemaker is not sure about the cause using a reductive vinification process could help as a preventative technique.

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Not that I am a winemaker, however, I would be looking to the opposite and using hyperoxidation to counter act the potential for prem-ox in my whites, as far as I understand the over protection of must against oxygen can in fact add to the potential of oxidation at a later stage.

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I don’t wish to wade in on an area that doesn’t hold my interest, but - just with my logical brain on - the whole world uses corks, and didn’t suffer a glut of premature oxidation in it’s whites, why do people instantly accept cork as the culprit? If it was, why hasn’t anyone got the same problem in the same proportions?

Surely there is likely a more common-demoninator peculiar to Burgundy and not the whole world?

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You are right, of course but my comment was by way of example and not intended to be exhaustive.

Yes @tannatastic I agree entirely. The prem-ox issue as far as I have read could never be put down to one cause. The reason being that it was so random. I recall a case of Carillon PM 2004 that I bought. Several bottles were superb, a few were ok and as I recall about 4 tasted like oloroso sherry.
Some argued that it was chlorine in cleaning agents, some argue that it was corks, some say clones or rootsock. I wondered about inconsistent bottle hygiene.
Is there a definitive answer?

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Ordinarily, I would say ‘unlikely’. But such a problem, with such large set of correlations - same region, same variety, same winemaking techniques, a particular group of vintages - that it has to be something happening in Burgundy.

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I’ll caveat this by saying I don’t know enough about this topic to have a strong opinion but…

Surely it is an important point that of all white wines, perhaps bar German riesling, white burgundy is the one which is most consistently drunk after a number of years bottle ageing.

Given this, if corks are the issue, it could certainly be understood why there appears to be a particular problem with Burgundy - because other wines that would have the same issue are consumed before it becomes apparent.

I have no doubt it’s not as simple as this - especially when it seems riesling/other longer lived cork-sealed whites suffer prem-ox only rarely (I have heard of it though), but I do think it seems pertinent and might point towards the issue being less uniquely Burgundian in its source.

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I’m not a winemaker either but I’m with Leah in so much as I’ve heard that too. There was also an obsession with fermenting super-clean (i.e. clear) must that apparently didn’t help.

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Yes from the use of Pneumatic presses and as @Tannatastic says, there is probably a combination of all of the above which have added to the issue. @DavidCB makes some good points too and I agree, whilst it is more prevalent in Burgundy, I don’t think it’s exclusive to there either.

I’m not convinced by what I see as yet another get-out-of-jail-free-card that is postulated for Burgundy.

Many Jurançon producers - indeed many producers of white wines from the area - recommend that their wines can be kept for decades. I have done that. I have yet to see the problem.

The one common denominator in most SW white grapes is high and very high acidity. My own suspicion is Burgundy producers tweaking their style and techniques to pander to the newly wine-concious (and wealthy) American market in the mid-to-late 90’s. Likely leading to riper wines with lower acidities.

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Exactly, and wines that were made to be palatable to critics/consumers from the get go even though they were destined for the long haul, also the lowering of free S02 and the prevalence of oxidase in the wine that then is prevented from oxidising through either the type of press and/or a combination of reductive winemaking.
I think there is a catalyst of reasons for sure.

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Faced with riper grapes with less acidity growers are reducing the wines’ exposure to oxygen. Higher pressure pressing, a move from 228 litre pieces to 300/350/500 litre barrels, more sulphur at bottling and sometimes Diam corks.

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Faced with riper grapes with less acidity growers are reducing the wines’ exposure to oxygen. Higher pressure pressing, a move from 228 litre pieces to 300/350/500 litre barrels, more sulphur at bottling and sometimes Diam corks.

I tasted 200 2017 white premiers and grand crus Burgundies in July and generally found them open for business, so I think winemakers are learning how to adjust to the new style of raw material.

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I reproduce here an edited version of a post about the pox I made on Wine Pages.

I have often stated my opinion but will do so again. Its disputed by some but having tasted literally hundreds of white Burgundies, asked to by our Committee, I consider that cork is a major element in the pox. White Burgundy is also more fragile as global warming is producing riper wines with less acidity and this is part of the problem too. My synthesis is pox occurs when a wine with low sulphur is bottled with a poor batch of corks which are porous to air.

I have noted POX in white Rhônes and Alsace wines and some red wines. But generally wines like Alsace riesling do not undergo malo so have more acidity, gewurztraminer is protected by its phenolic compounds, sweet wines are protected by their sugar, reds are generally protected by their tannins, so these wines are much less likely to oxidise. It occurs with many “natural” wines. White Burgundy is a wine of relatively modest acidity which is kept in large numbers and for longer than many other whites which is why it is most affected.

There were many occasions when a consumer said a wine was poxed and we tasted a bottle and found quite often it wasn’t, so I decided when a customer complained to open 6 bottles. My boss refused this for a long time but eventually gave in. Also when I did a tasting from our stock, as requested by the TWS Committee, I tasted 6 bottles of the same wine too. Tasting 6 bottles one can have all good, all poxed or a variation of some slightly or badly poxed, or a mix of everything and anything.

There is a massive variation in the occurrence and degree of oxidation of poxed bottles, and it gets worse over time. Different wines from the same producer in the same year can be poxed, some severely or slightly or mixed or not. Almost every vineyard and producer had a problem, but not every year and not necessarily the same vineyards. I rememberr one famous producer’s St Aubin being fine but his Bâtard was poxed, from the same vintage. Thus there is no discernible pattern. Its what the Aussies call random oxidation. Or its a pattern that we have yet to discover.

What could possibly explain what seems to be the random occurrence of pox ? What also can explain the variation in the same wine and same case of 6 bottles case when all can be good, bad or a mixture of different levels of oxidation, with some good bottles? Assuming we are dealing with good producers who have good lines, sparge lines and tanks, check filler heads and bottle neck tolerances, measure dissolved oxygen in the tank before bottling and in the bottle after bottling, then the only variable is the cork.

Fèvre had big problems in from memory, vintages 2000 and 2002. But why was 2001 fine? I took samples to their laboratory and we tasted with Géraud Aussendou, head of quality control. We tasted the wines, I think both 2000 and 2002 vintages, marked on a scale of 0 being good, and up to +4, when very good and -4 for the bad bottles. The wines were analysed for free SO2 as we tasted. There was a very good correlation between the colour, taste and score of the wine and the amount of free SO2. The really badly oxidised wines had very low or no SO2. good ones had higher SO2, and the ones in between were pro rata. Deeper coloured wines were more oxidised, lighter ones less so.

A further problem with natural corks, apart from variable porosity, is that they can, when gripped by the jaws of the corker, exude into the bottle between 1-30 mg of oxygen, and each mg of oxygen can destroy 4 mg of S02. So if you bottle with 25mg free SO2 and have 7mg of oxygen exuded into the bottle during the bottling you have zero free sulpur left and the wine can oxidise within months of bottling.

At the July 2021 tasting called Burgfest where I tasted about 300 white Burgundies blind from the 2017 vintage there were 40 or so wines closed with Diam which were very good, with no reduction. But 10% of the wines closed with natural corks had faults of principally oxidation and TCA.

Ask any of the people who have moved to Diam, and who have also checked and improved bottling technique, people like Fëvre and Bouchard Père, Jadot etc. and after adopting Diam they have had no more problems with the pox. Of course if you do not put enough sulphur in the wine it will oxidise under Diam.

While TCA in natural corks is being addressed variable porosity remains a challenge. So far grading of natural corks is done visually. A lovely looking cork could have a chamber burrowed by an insect in it. At present checking porosity destroys the cork. I think they are working on this and weighing corks to help ascertain density. I no longer trust natural corks because they vary so much. A “batch” of corks will come from many different trees and so be inherently variable. If they find a way to ascertain porosity then corks will come back as a good one is of course excellent. The problem is the variability.

Why should corks have become more porous? I do not know but have a theory cork trees are growing faster with global warming and their bark is less dense and more porous. I think some old corks from the 1930/40/50/60s have up to 12 growth rings. Now it is many fewer.

I suggest those who have given up on White Burgundy should try it again when bottled with Diam corks. I think it has solved the problem.

Global warming may produce white Burgundies, and other wines, with less acidity so their are a little more fragile. What many producers are doing now is to reduce the wine’s exposure to oxygen during elevage by bottling after 12 instead of 18 months or moving to larger barrels, 300/600 or foudres.

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As an “end user,” I am a mere amateur commenting on wine.
I rely on you, Marcel, Tim etc to source and supply great value wines on our behalf.
You guys are the professionals, you live, eat and breathe wine - on our behalf, I respect your encyclopaedic knowledge and will be guided by you.
I have read much regarding premox, and long ago decided to take the best advice from those “in the know” and absolve myself of questionable decisions.
When I read your opinions coupled with those from Neal Martin and William Kelley, and they are in broad agreement; there is little to be achieved by delving deeper except maybe a monumental migraine. :open_mouth: :wink: :dragon:

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Thank you Toby for taking the trouble to post this article. I had originally missed it but having had the opportunity to read it I have found it extremely helpful

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