Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

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William Kelley
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Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#1 Post by William Kelley » January 8th, 2019, 9:22 am

Francophone berserkers might find this article by Jean-Emmanuel Simond in the RVF thought-provoking reading: https://www.larvf.com/est-on-en-train-d ... i0GorCtCjM
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#2 Post by Subu Ramachandran » January 8th, 2019, 11:21 am

Nice article William. Whats your take? Has the pendulum swung too far, wines are too skinny, too acidic, too reductive?

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#3 Post by larry schaffer » January 8th, 2019, 11:37 am

A really interesting article indeed. It's a challenge for me to understand what is happening as a whole in France since I do not live there or go there often enough - are you seeing this play out with 'mainstream' white wines over there in general? Or are we just talking the top wines?

Cheers.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#4 Post by William Kelley » January 8th, 2019, 12:14 pm

It is an interesting question. Certainly, if you threw a Chablis premier cru from Raveneau into a blind tasting of contemporary Meursaults, it would likely be one of the broader, more textural wines - and that wouldn't have been true two decades ago. (The side issue of reduction is a bit of a blind alley, I would suggest, as there have always been producers working, intentionally or otherwise, in a reductive style.) And you have very extreme winemaking going on in the Côte de Beaune to pursue this tangier, leaner, more minimalist style: one darling of this board picked his 2018s at around 11-11.5% potential alcohol and chaptalized to 12.5%. Meanwhile, others who didn't make their 2018s like that have been accused of doing so on social media: the debate in the region has become somewhat heated. And while we're not at a "tipping point", I do think the nature of ripeness is going to be interrogated a bit more thoroughly. The discussion in the French press is perhaps even a bit more advanced than in the Anglophone world, I'm not sure.

But the current state of affairs was created by the market. At the end of the day, most producers make the wines they think their clients want and tell journalists what they think journalists want to hear, so when almost everyone in the Côte de Beaune introduces their wines by saying, "I picked early to retain freshness", what's going on isn't a mystery. Since you can't know what's "early" and what's "late" without knowing the character of the mesoclimate, the soil hydrology, the rootstocks, the vine selections, the yield and the farming, I refrain from judging the wines based on the harvest date—I don't even systematically inquire. But I do get the sense that producers are still getting asked when they harvest a lot.

The more interesting question is how to make classically balanced, age-worthy white Burgundies in what is seemingly a new era of warmer vintages that have—2018 excepted—also thus far been lower yielding vintages for white. There are viticultural and technical solutions that producers such as Raphaël Coche, Olivier Lamy and others are thinking about very seriously. And it's extremely interesting. To my mind, simply picking on pH and then having to chaptalize by two degrees to produce a certain style of wine is not a sustainable solution.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#5 Post by William Kelley » January 8th, 2019, 12:16 pm

larry schaffer wrote:
January 8th, 2019, 11:37 am
A really interesting article indeed. It's a challenge for me to understand what is happening as a whole in France since I do not live there or go there often enough - are you seeing this play out with 'mainstream' white wines over there in general? Or are we just talking the top wines?

Cheers.
I am immersed in Burgundy to such a degree that I couldn't comment on the mainstream. But fine French wine is to a significant extent an export product in any case. Most French consumers would be just as shocked as most American consumers on seeing the price tag on a bottle of Puligny Pucelles.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#6 Post by larry schaffer » January 8th, 2019, 12:23 pm

Thank you for the feedback, and the 'messaging' seems to be the same that is going on here via a vis new oak - producers saying that they are 'cutting back' which implies that it is much lower, but that is not necessarily the case.

Pendulums certainly swing everywhere, but it will be interesting to follow this trend over there - and see what 'implications' it has for other wine growing regions.

A funny think about CA Chardonnay, for instance - most wineries here say that they have moved away from that style, but it is obvious from the best selling SKUS that the general public has not necessarily followed them.

Cheers.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#7 Post by larry schaffer » January 8th, 2019, 4:58 pm

And I gotta say that I'm really surprised this is not getting more commentary here on this board - especially with how many folks dig French white wines in general . . .

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#8 Post by Jim Brennan » January 8th, 2019, 5:18 pm

Like Muscadet?

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#9 Post by Joshua Kates » January 8th, 2019, 5:35 pm

William Kelley wrote:
January 8th, 2019, 12:16 pm
larry schaffer wrote:
January 8th, 2019, 11:37 am
A really interesting article indeed. It's a challenge for me to understand what is happening as a whole in France since I do not live there or go there often enough - are you seeing this play out with 'mainstream' white wines over there in general? Or are we just talking the top wines?

Cheers.
I am immersed in Burgundy to such a degree that I couldn't comment on the mainstream. But fine French wine is to a significant extent an export product in any case. Most French consumers would be just as shocked as most American consumers on seeing the price tag on a bottle of Puligny Pucelles.
Thanks for the link and thanks for your long thoughtful post above, William. It's a complex topic, which is perhaps one reason not some many folks are following up, Larry, as you note below. As for myself, I got interested in aged white burgundy quite a bit later than aged red burgundy, so the premox scare was already in full swing, and I indeed have some hesitation in letting them age a long time. (I'm doing that with some '14's, of which I bought enough that I can also pop a few from time to time.) I do think this has lead to a stylistic shift, but like you, Larry, and unlike William, I am not really able to gauge its extent or its consequences. It does seem that Burgundy continues to produce whites of great density, cut, and intensity of fruit, yet which also are leaner than those of old, and, as the article suggests, more suitable to early drinking. I am not sure that's wholly a bad thing--seems better than generating more pre-moxed wine, but again I don't have the longevity or experience with these to speak to the broader implications. One way or another, it seems safe to say, the wines do continue to interest me, and, given their prices, apparently a number of other folks as well. I, too, would love to hear those on the board with more experience in these quarters chime in.

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#10 Post by m. ristev » January 8th, 2019, 7:34 pm

William Kelley wrote:
January 8th, 2019, 12:14 pm
And you have very extreme winemaking going on in the Côte de Beaune to pursue this tangier, leaner, more minimalist style: one darling of this board picked his 2018s at around 11-11.5% potential alcohol and chaptalized to 12.5%.
so will these details be published in your tasting notes for said wines?
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#11 Post by Maxwell A. » January 8th, 2019, 9:47 pm

Thanks for posting the article, William. It was an interesting read and this is a healthy perspective to consider.

Do any of the producers you visit seem to think this is a troubling trend? Is it common that many don't realize they've gone a tad too far or are moving in that direction and in danger of doing so?

What is their general perception?

Thanks for all your insights so far.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#12 Post by Herwig Janssen » January 9th, 2019, 1:10 am

Thank you for this interesting article William .
Indeed , " hot " vintages give us wine that is big , fat , round but lacking freshness . So I understand that the vignerons are contemplating how to avoid this lack of freshness . Picking at the right moment becomes trickier and trickier . Picking too late will give you heavy wines , picking too early thin wines . But I have not seen a " trend " in either direction . It's just very difficult to do it right .
In the article , he also claims that nobody ages white Burgundy anymore . I was told the same thing at a tasting with the brothers Ente 2 months ago ( by their extremely arrogant commercial guy , if you have met him you will know who it is ). Don't know if that is true ... some friends drink earlier because they are afraid of premox , but " old " white Burgundy is still the real deal imho .( and what is old ? 20 years ? )
Finally , he claims that talented winemakers like Roulot are extremely rare in Burgundy . I disagree , I think there is a new generation with a much more open mind that is trying to make great white Burgundy . Our friend Seb at Lamy Caillat is a great example .
The climat is changing and that poses a lot of new challenges to everybody .

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#13 Post by joz€f p1nxten » January 9th, 2019, 2:49 am

It is indeed a very interesting opinion, that poses very valid questions. Is it normal that a Meursault all of a sudden tastes like a Chablis? I don't pass judgment, but I am glad the discussion is at least out in the open. I fully agree that this is a complex topic, and unless you are immersed in Burgundy, it is difficult to provide a meaningful perspective.

Maybe to add an example of how heated the debate is in Burgundy itself: on 7 September 2018, Patrick Essa, winemaker at Buisson-Charles in Meursault, who always has very clear (divise?) opinions, posted the following on Facebook (google translation from French):

"Vintage 2018, the return of phylloxera?

In 2018, once again, the history of the vintage will be written by those who will make the best communication by managing to influence the opinions according to their choices.
Obviously then, the law of the greatest number manipulated by the "influencers" will be that which will be given by the observers of all horizons who can not, without living the facts of the interior, to understand in depth the ins and outs which govern the logic of the crops.
I already think I hear the voices of those who will announce that in 2018 "it was necessary to cut early" to preserve the acidity of wines and thus their character of nervous crus of northern limit. I hear the sommelier evoke the minerality, the producer evoke the tension, the buyer will make fun of early dates to get the freshness, and the journalist determine his assessment according to who will have done where and when ... In short, 2015 and 2017, the return!

All this will be wrong.

By the grace of reasoned and chilly reasoning with no oenological foundations early cutting is a kind of cancer that gnaws the quality of the wines of the Côte des Blancs very fast. This new phylloxera is pernicious because it is made of high yields on imperfectly ripe grapes and oenological corrections imagined by producers and oenologists who have not been able to adapt their winemaking model to the evolution of our times. The worst thing is that the inter-professional organizations have absolutely no long-term vision of this disastrous movement that they can even amplify by broadcasting bulletins analyzes so smoothed that they allow to give free rein to all sorts of choices irrelevant.
Most of the harvests will be chaptalized when they were brought in August under hot heat, cooled, brewed and worse, acidified in addition to being corrected in sugar. Yet all the medium-term forecasts announced warm weather and less warm in early September.
Wine is flowing, triple-digit yields are not uncommon and everyone agrees to allow 1.5 degrees of chaptalization. Everything is for the best in the best of all worlds?
No!"

I hurt my passion, hurt my Meursault, bad for the old ones who would not understand as much negligence and permissiveness, bad for those wines that could have, should have been huge ... and that will be very rarely.
Fortunately it is at the end of the ball that we pay the musicians, and believe me, some will end up doing the round.


Of course, using words like 'phylloxera' and 'cancer' when describing the practices of estates which pick very early was bound to get people talking in the small community that Burgundy is, to the point that Jean-Yves Bizot of the eponimous domaine felt compelled to reply (google translation from French):

"I'm not too used to participating in forum discussions or bouncing on posts posted on Facebook. But as this one is a bit controversial, and Patrick takes part in the technical commission of the BIVB, in charge of monitoring maturations, I will allow me to answer.
I will not take a position on his words concerning maturity and dates of harvest. They are part of the points of view no doubt relevant and this results in a discussion necessary for the proper functioning of the appellations. On the other hand, I am opposed to what he says about the BIVB levies. "The worst thing is that the inter-professional organizations have absolutely no long-term vision of this disastrous movement that they can even amplify by broadcasting bulletins analyzes so smooth that they allow to give free rein to all kinds of irrelevant choices. "No offense to Patrick Essa, the BIVB can not in any case take sides. Maturation readings are given here for information. They are the result of collections made by many winemakers, who also spend time there. All results are statistically processed, with means, standard deviations, maximum and minimum values ​​by grape variety and department. So the analyzes are not smoothed and only show a trend. I still hope that the vast majority of producers do not stop at these figures to decide their date of harvest: the monitoring of maturation is written in the specifications."


My conclusion is that climate change and premox clearly have an effect on how white burgundy are reflecting on their winemaking practices, and that we are only at the beginning of a whole process of adaptation.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#14 Post by Markus S » January 9th, 2019, 5:29 am

William Kelley wrote:
January 8th, 2019, 12:14 pm
one darling of this board picked his 2018s at around 11-11.5% potential alcohol and chaptalized to 12.5%.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#15 Post by Craig Williams » January 9th, 2019, 9:56 am

William:

This was indeed a thought-provoking article. Thank you for posting.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#16 Post by lleichtman » January 9th, 2019, 10:40 am

Jim Brennan wrote:
January 8th, 2019, 5:18 pm
Like Muscadet?
Oh indeed. I drink more Muscadet than white Burgundy.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#17 Post by Jayson Cohen » January 9th, 2019, 11:27 am

The article raises a good topic but to me it reads a little like many of our posts here (mine included): nostalgic longing for the good ol’ pre-premox, pre-global warming days and disdain for the new and trendy. Which aren’t bad points to make, but they should be considered carefully. We can’t turn back the clock. And putting premox aside, we can only guess how today’s wines will age and what will turn out to work to deal with a change in maturation tendencies and harvest timing. There is a little bit of hubris claiming (at least in a broad sense) that the early-picked chaptalized wines will fall apart or won’t gain weight or complexity in bottle just because they (for better or worse) are made to drink younger. I can’t make the winemaker aim for a vin de garde if that is not the intent.

Personally I tend not to care for clearly over-chaptalized wines. And I haven’t been gaga for PYCM like others but many people love these wines. But there is room for many styles.

On drinking younger because of premox, tons of the most fanatic Burgundy drinkers on WB are clearly appreciating this aspect of winemaking by popping their 2009s to 2016s now. (I’ve barely moved past 2002, with a few 2004 and 2007, from my own cellar except to sample on release.) Not only hipsters and somms but old school Burg nuts fearing premox and their own mortality are driving trends to have wines that drink well young and have balance at the same time (even if somewhat manufactured). And maybe it’s what has to happen based on reality despite the longing for the good old days.

Overall, I don’t think you can separate the premox problem with the issues in viticulture and winemaking raised by this article. Until there is confidence in aging white Burg again, why make the wines in a style that is hard to drink young? The article doesn’t really address this. (Maybe the best case in point is from Alsace: Clos St Hune’s premox problems, in wines made in a style that is really not meant to be drunk young.)

The comment above about Sebastian Caillat is therefore interesting. I hope he succeeds in finding a formula to recapture old school Burgundy, without premox, but I think at this point his domaine with his wife is too young to know.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#18 Post by A.Gillette » January 9th, 2019, 12:00 pm

There was an article by Jasper Morris in the World of Fine Wine last year (available for free here: http://www.worldoffinewine.com/news/the ... dy-6102566) where Jasper praised the state of red burgundy and lamented the state of white as follows: "Chardonnay is a muscular grape not a ballet dancer, and attempts to produce a very pure, fine style of white Burgundy have missed the point". I read Jasper to be saying that the stylistic change is in response to premox.

I found the article to be fascinating. I've always considered to Jasper to be the preeminent voice in all matters burgundy (at least for my palate) and his article lines up with my own experiences. Personally, I no longer buy white burgundies and haven't for the last 7 vintages, although I still get the occasional great bottle from my cellar in between completely oxidized treasures. I can't complain too much as venturing away from white burgundy has led me to German Riesling, which everyone knows makes much better wine.

I was also struck by Jasper's comments on climate change, although that is a topic for another thread.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#19 Post by William Kelley » January 11th, 2019, 4:01 am

Herwig Janssen wrote:
January 9th, 2019, 1:10 am
Thank you for this interesting article William .
Indeed , " hot " vintages give us wine that is big , fat , round but lacking freshness . So I understand that the vignerons are contemplating how to avoid this lack of freshness . Picking at the right moment becomes trickier and trickier . Picking too late will give you heavy wines , picking too early thin wines . But I have not seen a " trend " in either direction . It's just very difficult to do it right .
In the article , he also claims that nobody ages white Burgundy anymore . I was told the same thing at a tasting with the brothers Ente 2 months ago ( by their extremely arrogant commercial guy , if you have met him you will know who it is ). Don't know if that is true ... some friends drink earlier because they are afraid of premox , but " old " white Burgundy is still the real deal imho .( and what is old ? 20 years ? )
Finally , he claims that talented winemakers like Roulot are extremely rare in Burgundy . I disagree , I think there is a new generation with a much more open mind that is trying to make great white Burgundy . Our friend Seb at Lamy Caillat is a great example .
The climat is changing and that poses a lot of new challenges to everybody .
Agreed, Herwig. There's more than a little polemic in the piece, though it is natural for people to take sides. As for the perception of a trend, that will be defined by one's tasting itinerary, and also by the wines which are held in the highest regard in the market one lives in. While there is obviously a lot of agreement, the hierarchy of "hottest" producers—and thus, one's sense of Burgundy's direction—varies in each market. And to an extent, this is an optical illusion created by the market rather than a reflection of what the totality of Burgundian winemakers are thinking about and doing.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#20 Post by William Kelley » January 11th, 2019, 4:09 am

jwpinxten wrote:
January 9th, 2019, 2:49 am

Maybe to add an example of how heated the debate is in Burgundy itself: on 7 September 2018, Patrick Essa, winemaker at Buisson-Charles in Meursault, who always has very clear (divise?) opinions, posted the following on Facebook (google translation from French):
This was indeed the blog essay I was alluding to in my earlier post. While some of Patrick's articles are very interesting, I don't think this one was helpful. It was unnecessarily polemical, not just criticizing methods but imputing motives for them. It is fair enough to criticize picking early, but to claim that those who are doing so are doing so for invidious commercial reasons is not helpful. One mustn't be naive, but plenty of producers clearly pick early because they believe it's the best decision to make the kinds of wines they want to make. The Ente brothers are not picking early to get higher yields, that's evident. To my mind, by polarizing the issue to such an extent, I fear that Patrick has set back the discussion. But perhaps I'm mistaken.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#21 Post by Karl K » January 11th, 2019, 8:10 pm

I appreciate the insight into the world of Burgundy provided in the Essa FB post.

Also appreciate WK’s take on it.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#22 Post by GregT » January 11th, 2019, 9:26 pm

Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:14 pm
And you have very extreme winemaking going on in the Côte de Beaune to pursue this tangier, leaner, more minimalist style: one darling of this board picked his 2018s at around 11-11.5% potential alcohol and chaptalized to 12.5%.
"Natural" wine. Shows the terroir better.

As to the article, I know a lot of people who call themselves acid freaks. Not that they have particularly good taste, but acidity is an easy thing to spot and claim to prefer.

However, there is often an assumption that some extreme cases represent some kind of a "pendulum" rather than exploration by a few individuals. Just like every Cab in California isn't 15.9% alcohol, I'd be surprised if the majority of whites in Burgundy were under ripe.

And besides, as a counter approach, we have the trendy orange wines.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#23 Post by William Kelley » January 12th, 2019, 3:47 am

GregT wrote:
January 11th, 2019, 9:26 pm

However, there is often an assumption that some extreme cases represent some kind of a "pendulum" rather than exploration by a few individuals. Just like every Cab in California isn't 15.9% alcohol, I'd be surprised if the majority of whites in Burgundy were under ripe.
Not to quibble, but the average Cabernet Sauvignon brix according to the harvest crush report in the 2013 Napa vintage was 26.3 - which by most conversions gives an alcohol level in the mid-15%. Haven't got the data to hand but 2014 and 2015 were similar as I recall.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#24 Post by Jürgen Steinke » January 12th, 2019, 5:01 am

I tasted many white Burgundies over the last years I found exhausting. I asked myself why and had the idea that 3 things may play a role. 1. Premox. 2. Climate change. 3. Trend to lower alc. In fear to produce hedonistic and short living wines producer may think its better to go in the opposite direction. And went too far.

Whatever the reasons had been – the results were not convincing to me. Wines with little charm, reduced, even harsh sometimes. Barely recognizable as Chardonnay any more. In fact with little character and soul. Freshness to an extreme.

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#25 Post by Dennis Borczon » January 12th, 2019, 5:50 am

Jeez, I have a somewhat different take on all this. Pity to poor winemakers! The Burgundian's get savaged in the press and on places like WB for having failure of their white wines from premox. Perhaps they tried to compete in the 90's with massive California chardonnays that promised richness and hedonism today not in 20 years (ala Kistler and others in mid nineties). Remember those glowing Parker reviews of those Cali wines comparing them to Grand Cru white Burgs?

So white wine makers start to chase more ripeness, more extraction, more batonnage, to fatten the wine up, more glossy new oak, and surprise....they started to fall apart after a few years. (As do most of the old style Kistler whites, I have lots of evidence from my own cellar)

So now with the hue and cry there is a movement to correct the problems, experiment with earlier harvests and other techniques to freshen the wines, and they are getting slammed again! It seems like this is a no win scenario.

Place this against the background of a different culture in drinking (how many millennial neophyte wine drinkers can afford to pay student loans, much less a wine cellar!!) and of course earlier accessibility is going to be a trend. The only exceptions seem to be the collectors who long for the good old days of 20 year aging white Burgundies of their grandfathers. I for one doubt the trends will be going back, it is a new world and there are new desires. The Red Burg producers have gotten it figured out (largely, at least they have had colossal success in selling their product) but the experimentation with chardonnay is ongoing. Vive la experiments!!!

(unless of course someone starts producing Roulot at prices I can afford) pileon

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#26 Post by Howard Cooper » January 12th, 2019, 6:19 am

Boy, I must admit I find this thread hard to analyze. "Many producers", "board favorite" and on and on and on. There are hundreds or thousands of white Burgundy producers. Of these, I probably buy wines from a dozen or so. Without more specifics as to the names of the producers that do or do not do the things criticized in this thread I must admit that I find this thread pretty useless.

Names, please?
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#27 Post by Jayson Cohen » January 12th, 2019, 6:47 am

Howard Cooper wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 6:19 am
Boy, I must admit I find this thread hard to analyze. "Many producers", "board favorite" and on and on and on. There are hundreds or thousands of white Burgundy producers. Of these, I probably buy wines from a dozen or so. Without more specifics as to the names of the producers that do or do not do the things criticized in this thread I must admit that I find this thread pretty useless.

Names, please?
You mean not everyone is making wine like unnamed Poster Child #1?

I caved and decided to go to the Paulee Grand Tasting to taste 2016s. It will be interesting to taste across many producers in a short span (albeit clearly not the best setting for introspection and focus on each wine) to get a better snapshot. Limited as the snapshot will be as you fairly note.

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#28 Post by William Kelley » January 12th, 2019, 7:13 am

Howard Cooper wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 6:19 am
Boy, I must admit I find this thread hard to analyze. "Many producers", "board favorite" and on and on and on. There are hundreds or thousands of white Burgundy producers. Of these, I probably buy wines from a dozen or so. Without more specifics as to the names of the producers that do or do not do the things criticized in this thread I must admit that I find this thread pretty useless.

Names, please?
I understand your frustration, but from my point of view, it's more interesting to keep the discussion general. Naming producers will make things polemical, and I am not looking to berate producers for making failing to make wines how I would make them on this forum. But I think enough of the contributors to this thread taste widely enough for the discussion to be at least moderately interesting. And I think you taste more than widely enough, Howard, to have noticed that contemporary white Burgundy is tangier, more incisive and less textural that it was fifteen years ago, despite vintages being generally warmer.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#29 Post by William Kelley » January 12th, 2019, 7:21 am

Dennis Borczon wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 5:50 am
Jeez, I have a somewhat different take on all this. Pity to poor winemakers! The Burgundian's get savaged in the press and on places like WB for having failure of their white wines from premox. Perhaps they tried to compete in the 90's with massive California chardonnays that promised richness and hedonism today not in 20 years (ala Kistler and others in mid nineties). Remember those glowing Parker reviews of those Cali wines comparing them to Grand Cru white Burgs?

So white wine makers start to chase more ripeness, more extraction, more batonnage, to fatten the wine up, more glossy new oak, and surprise....they started to fall apart after a few years. (As do most of the old style Kistler whites, I have lots of evidence from my own cellar)

So now with the hue and cry there is a movement to correct the problems, experiment with earlier harvests and other techniques to freshen the wines, and they are getting slammed again! It seems like this is a no win scenario.

Place this against the background of a different culture in drinking (how many millennial neophyte wine drinkers can afford to pay student loans, much less a wine cellar!!) and of course earlier accessibility is going to be a trend. The only exceptions seem to be the collectors who long for the good old days of 20 year aging white Burgundies of their grandfathers. I for one doubt the trends will be going back, it is a new world and there are new desires. The Red Burg producers have gotten it figured out (largely, at least they have had colossal success in selling their product) but the experimentation with chardonnay is ongoing. Vive la experiments!!!

(unless of course someone starts producing Roulot at prices I can afford) pileon
The idea of this thread definitely isn't to savage anyone!

To my mind, the changes have more to do with aesthetic choices than the attempt to prevent premox. Sure, some producers attempted to use reduction to protect their wines from oxidation. But this is more about consciously privileging "freshness" and "minerality" over texture and volume. The caricature wines of the 1990s that you describe provoked a stylistic reaction. Has it gone to far? Personally, my ideal is to have my cake and eat it: amplitude with tension; texture and cut. But that's not easy to find.

We also appear to have accepted the RVF piece's premise that tight-knit, reduced wines drink better young than old, which I am not sure is correct.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#30 Post by William Kelley » January 12th, 2019, 7:28 am

To add a bit of material to the discussion, it's interesting that producers such as Lamy and Raphaël Coche are thinking quite explicitly about the role of dry extract in their wines. Coche's view, and Olivier's if I have rightly understood it, is that dry extract can bring a different kind of freshness to the wine—much as stems can bring perceptible freshness to high pH reds—and that it can help structure the wines. So Coche is trying to use dry extract to do for his wines what reduction and acid did for the colder vintages of the 1990s. This only works with very good grapes and involves work at the crusher and the press. But Coche's 2015s are very persuasive indeed, and Lamy's 2017s—which have much more evident quasi-phenolic dry extract than any vintage I tasted from him before—are also pretty special wines. It will be interesting to see where this trend, if it can be called that, goes.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#31 Post by larry schaffer » January 12th, 2019, 7:37 am

William,

Can you educate us on dry extract in white wines - or is this referring to their red wines? My understanding would the that 'dry extract' is phenolics/tannnins but this may not the case. Thanks in advance for the clarification - and for the input here.

Cheers.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#32 Post by Howard Cooper » January 12th, 2019, 7:51 am

William Kelley wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 7:13 am
Howard Cooper wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 6:19 am
Boy, I must admit I find this thread hard to analyze. "Many producers", "board favorite" and on and on and on. There are hundreds or thousands of white Burgundy producers. Of these, I probably buy wines from a dozen or so. Without more specifics as to the names of the producers that do or do not do the things criticized in this thread I must admit that I find this thread pretty useless.

Names, please?
I understand your frustration, but from my point of view, it's more interesting to keep the discussion general. Naming producers will make things polemical, and I am not looking to berate producers for making failing to make wines how I would make them on this forum. But I think enough of the contributors to this thread taste widely enough for the discussion to be at least moderately interesting. And I think you taste more than widely enough, Howard, to have noticed that contemporary white Burgundy is tangier, more incisive and less textural that it was fifteen years ago, despite vintages being generally warmer.
I don't believe that I taste that widely. I tend to drink a relative handful of producers that I like. Sure, I get to taste wines from others, but my friends and I tend to buy wines from similar producers. Most of the white Burgundies (not including Chablis) I have bought in the last several years have been from Ramonet, Dublere, PYCM and his wife, Bernard Moreau, Bouchard, Drouhin and, very recently, Heitz Lochardet (wines just coming in, tasted there this summer but otherwise have limited experience with them). I love white Burgs, but I drink a lot more (quantity and variety of producers) in red Burgs. So, it is really hard to tell anything from this thread without producer names, at least for me.


Dublere wines, to me, are in a more understated style, but I find that true of his reds as well and like their elegance and value. I don't see much change in the style of his wines in the 8-10 years or so I have been buying from. Certainly, I think the wines of Ramonet, Moreau, Bouchard and Drouhin are very much rich enough for me. I have enjoyed the wines I have had from PYCM but a lot of the ones I have had are too young to make much of a judgment on and I certainly cannot compare these wines to wines made 15 years ago unless I go back to Marc Colin wines (which seem to me to be very different wines). I did have a 2008 from him Thursday night and certainly richness was not an issue with that wine. So, I am having a lot of problems deciding whether I think newer trends are an issue or a good thing or a bad thing. If, for example, the article is saying that the 2014 CM Morgeots from Ramonet, Moreau or Drouhin or 2014 Meursault Perrieres from Bouchard are made in a new style that is different from older styles, I would say bring on more of the new style. Very hard to analyze the article in a vacuum.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#33 Post by GregT » January 12th, 2019, 1:49 pm

William Kelley wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 3:47 am
GregT wrote:
January 11th, 2019, 9:26 pm

However, there is often an assumption that some extreme cases represent some kind of a "pendulum" rather than exploration by a few individuals. Just like every Cab in California isn't 15.9% alcohol, I'd be surprised if the majority of whites in Burgundy were under ripe.
Not to quibble, but the average Cabernet Sauvignon brix according to the harvest crush report in the 2013 Napa vintage was 26.3 - which by most conversions gives an alcohol level in the mid-15%. Haven't got the data to hand but 2014 and 2015 were similar as I recall.
Yes that's why I said CA, but even so, there are plenty of factors right? In other words, it's not a linear relationship between brix and alcohol. Factors such as the yeast, the temperature, the pH, various enzymes, and other things affect the conversion of glucose to alcohol. Here's an article on that issue:

"The highest average ever for either county was Napa’s 2013=26.3 brix (14.7%)"
https://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/2 ... -ripeness/

Don't want to derail the thread though - that discussion can be another thread some time.

And as you know far more than I about Burgundy, I do have a question and he touched on it in the article - if they're indeed harvesting earlier, does that necessarily imply more chaptalization? In other words, are the alcohol levels on white Burgundy declining with supposed earlier picking, or are they consistent with past years?
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#34 Post by William Kelley » January 12th, 2019, 3:00 pm

GregT wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 1:49 pm
And as you know far more than I about Burgundy, I do have a question and he touched on it in the article - if they're indeed harvesting earlier, does that necessarily imply more chaptalization? In other words, are the alcohol levels on white Burgundy declining with supposed earlier picking, or are they consistent with past years?
In short, yes.

Until recently, chaptalization was systematic, including at the best addresses. Jean-François Coche used to do it pretty much every year.

Now, attaining the necessary sugar is much less of an issue (2013 was probably the only vintage this decade were it was needed). But people sometimes feel obliged to pick on acidity, which can leave them with too little sugar, so they chaptalize to make up the difference. This will depend on site, rootstocks, yields, pruning and all sorts of factors. Arnaud Ente often has to chaptalize his Puligny Champ Gain, IIRC, because it tends to lose acid before it has as much sugar as he would like.

I have also heard that chaptalizing late, in barrel, is also a way to encourage the kind of reductive aromas that have been so popular in the last decade.

Alcohol is going to vary on a producer by producer basis but I would say that for folks like Ente and PYCM coming in at 12-12.5% finished alcohol, those numbers are lower than the average either today or ten years ago, and considerably lower than the numbers for the wines they made at the beginning of their careers too.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#35 Post by William Kelley » January 12th, 2019, 3:01 pm

larry schaffer wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 7:37 am
William,

Can you educate us on dry extract in white wines - or is this referring to their red wines? My understanding would the that 'dry extract' is phenolics/tannnins but this may not the case. Thanks in advance for the clarification - and for the input here.

Cheers.
That's the term that the French use for extract from grape skins in (in this context) white wine. Seems they use the term more than US winemakers. So people are doing more crushing and modifying their press cycles to get more of it.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#36 Post by patrick essa » January 13th, 2019, 1:59 am

Hello William, Good morning to the speakers of this discussion, I rise here because my text of September 7 was quoted in your debate. initially he did not name any producer and does not seek to do so. it is a simple observation related to observed practices that denature the wines. We are not talking here about wine styles, but about abusive formatting designed to position winemaking and wine aging above the character conferred by the terroir and above all serious oenological faults that lead our appellations onto a worrying path.
The appellations for which we are responsible are all inscribed since immemorial times inscribed in a cultural framework. If they have the duty to evolve, it is out of the question that some producers can transform them to the point that they no longer represent the character of the vintage they are deprived of, and worse, that they are so influenced by oenological choices and interventions. that they lose all their identity.
sweetening, yeasting, acidifying, reducing with artifices of makers etc ... are only initial failures related to crops unbalanced by cultural and harvesting choices that do not meet the requirements of the vintages that we must produce.
Happy New Year to all.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#37 Post by Otto Forsberg » January 13th, 2019, 2:10 am

William Kelley wrote:
January 12th, 2019, 7:28 am
To add a bit of material to the discussion, it's interesting that producers such as Lamy and Raphaël Coche are thinking quite explicitly about the role of dry extract in their wines. Coche's view, and Olivier's if I have rightly understood it, is that dry extract can bring a different kind of freshness to the wine—much as stems can bring perceptible freshness to high pH reds—and that it can help structure the wines. So Coche is trying to use dry extract to do for his wines what reduction and acid did for the colder vintages of the 1990s. This only works with very good grapes and involves work at the crusher and the press. But Coche's 2015s are very persuasive indeed, and Lamy's 2017s—which have much more evident quasi-phenolic dry extract than any vintage I tasted from him before—are also pretty special wines. It will be interesting to see where this trend, if it can be called that, goes.
Perhaps a bit tangential to the topic, but I found the highlighted part a bit weird. To my understanding, producers usually avoid using stems in high pH reds, because stems contain potassium and thus they boost pH even higher. Since high pH is normally detrimental to the stability of the wine, it would make sense not to push high pH any higher.

From my understanding, a producer might use stems in a wine to introduce some sappy freshness in a wine with both low acidity and low pH (as pH and acidity don't necessarily walk hand-in-hand) as the wine can thus survive higher pH. However, normally I've heard producers using a higher amount of stems when the wines are low in pH and high in acidity just to soften the wines down a bit. AFAIK, this is also the reason why many of the producers in Burgundy have preferred to include the stems in their reds.

However, since there are several winemakers here on this board, I'd love to hear some further input to the matter from them!

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#38 Post by William Kelley » January 13th, 2019, 5:05 am

Otto Forsberg wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 2:10 am

Perhaps a bit tangential to the topic, but I found the highlighted part a bit weird. To my understanding, producers usually avoid using stems in high pH reds, because stems contain potassium and thus they boost pH even higher. Since high pH is normally detrimental to the stability of the wine, it would make sense not to push high pH any higher.

From my understanding, a producer might use stems in a wine to introduce some sappy freshness in a wine with both low acidity and low pH (as pH and acidity don't necessarily walk hand-in-hand) as the wine can thus survive higher pH. However, normally I've heard producers using a higher amount of stems when the wines are low in pH and high in acidity just to soften the wines down a bit. AFAIK, this is also the reason why many of the producers in Burgundy have preferred to include the stems in their reds.

However, since there are several winemakers here on this board, I'd love to hear some further input to the matter from them!
The key word was "perceptible". Even though stems precipitate out tartaric acid and raise the pH, they can create the perception of freshness in the wine. In Burgundy, some producers like to use them more abundantly in warm vintages for that reason, despite the higher pHs that ensue.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#39 Post by William Kelley » January 13th, 2019, 5:30 am

patrick essa wrote:
January 13th, 2019, 1:59 am
Hello William, Good morning to the speakers of this discussion, I rise here because my text of September 7 was quoted in your debate. initially he did not name any producer and does not seek to do so. it is a simple observation related to observed practices that denature the wines. We are not talking here about wine styles, but about abusive formatting designed to position winemaking and wine aging above the character conferred by the terroir and above all serious oenological faults that lead our appellations onto a worrying path.
The appellations for which we are responsible are all inscribed since immemorial times inscribed in a cultural framework. If they have the duty to evolve, it is out of the question that some producers can transform them to the point that they no longer represent the character of the vintage they are deprived of, and worse, that they are so influenced by oenological choices and interventions. that they lose all their identity.
sweetening, yeasting, acidifying, reducing with artifices of makers etc ... are only initial failures related to crops unbalanced by cultural and harvesting choices that do not meet the requirements of the vintages that we must produce.
Happy New Year to all.
Patrick Essa - Domaine Buisson-Charles
Thanks for contributing, Patrick. I am sympathetic to your argument that grapes harvested too early and adjusted in the winery will never fully express their appellations. And I can imagine how frustrating it is when you feel that wines are pre-judged by journalists in function of the date of harvest. I appreciate that you feel very strongly about this important question, and it is brave of you to address it so directly. But I think that when you called colleagues who picked in August the "new phylloxera" and imputed not only that they would necessarily need to chaptalize and adjust their musts, but that their goal was to have higher yields (if I have understood your French text correctly), your text became polemical. I have seen must analyses for grapes picked in August last year that have more than 12.5% potential alcohol, as well as very healthy pH and TA. And while some producers may be unscrupulous, there are dedicated and experienced vignerons who picked early, in good faith, because they thought it would make better wines. Even if we happen to disagree with the philosophy or its results, we mustn't disparage their motives.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#40 Post by James Billy » January 13th, 2019, 5:52 am

flirtysmile Wise words!

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#41 Post by Marcu$ Stanley » January 13th, 2019, 9:23 am

As an ordinary consumer who dips into lower end (village and premier cru) white burgundy specifically to get a contrast with Chablis I can definitely recognize what is being pointed to here. I go to Meursault to get some butter and fat in my Chardonnay but in my limited efforts I have rarely found it. Instead there are very lean wines and sometimes punishing acidity. I know WK doesn’t want to criticize specific producers but perhaps name some praiseworthy producers who you could point people to get a more traditional roundedness at an affordable price?

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#42 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » January 13th, 2019, 11:48 am

Interesting topic and conversation. Premox, arguably, renders this conversation moot, to the extent the problem this new style is ageability.

This conversation seems most relevant to those who are willing to drink their white burgs very young.
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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#43 Post by patrick essa » January 13th, 2019, 2:41 pm

to be heard the language of wood is not an option!
harvesting imperfectly ripe grapes is an insurmountable obstacle to balanced wine production. we can not talk about global warming and its effects while allowing ourselves corrections of sugar under the pretext of preserving acidity. it is nonsense.
the only degree means nothing, no more than an isolated ph, it requires a balanced analysis. and in this matter nothing was possible before 27/08
the stories that imagine balanced grapes two weeks after veraison ... are just stories to sleep. the tastings will show this acutely and I will be particularly attentive to their results.

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Re: Revue du Vin de France on Ripeness in White Wine

#44 Post by John Bashford » January 13th, 2019, 5:40 pm

A very interesting and lively discussion.

I'm a believer that what was called 'matiere' in France and equally the English equivalent of 'dry extract' are the key to the science and art of making good chardonnay with complexity and robustness with ageing. My first experience of White Burgundy of real substance was a 1978 Meursault Perrieres from Ampeau in a long forgotten restaurant in Beaune ( forgotten not because of its quality but because its over 35 years ago ! ) and my striking memory was its grip, length and density which make it reference standard for me when explaining the word 'matiere'.

I seldom see that character in modern White Burgundy - perhaps with Ramonet, Roulot, pre 2002 Leflaive, DRC but not with the many others that I have had over the past 20 years. There appears to be a crisis of confidence in Burgundy with Chardonnay with all sorts of approaches to meet the market, solve premox, pay the bills in a capital rich, cashflow less rich environment and satisfy the many commentators. Its reminiscent of the New World and particularly Australia 10 to 20 years ago where styles oscillated between tutti-frutti, Dolly Parton, lemon juice, oak juice and everything in between ! Many sins here were probably covered up by effective ( read Stelvin rather than cork ) closures but fortunately we seem to be entering a phase of maturity and understanding leading to a host of really good Australian chardonnays.

Nothing really beats mature White Burgundy though. I would love to take some of my favourite White Burgundy producers back to that restaurant in 1983 and share the same bottle of Perrieres with them and discuss 'matiere' . Perhaps after a few great bottles of white and a few bottles of really great Richebourg or Chambertin their confidence will be restored !

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