Pesticides in Bordeaux (mostly...) - French article

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Phil T r o t t e r
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Pesticides in Bordeaux (mostly...) - French article

#1 Post by Phil T r o t t e r » September 15th, 2020, 7:23 am

Sorry for posting an article in French but I found this interesting. It's not the first time we hear of pesticide use in Bordeaux and some articles have been a little too alarmist. However, what I found interesting about this one is the fact that some wines that show toxicity above recommended thresholds are labeled and promoted as HVE (Haute Valeur Environnementale or High Environmental Value) which is supposed to be a very stringent and reliable certification in France. It appears that it is not so.

This also ties into labeling the wine "ingredients" on the label. I think I saw a pretty deep topic about that on this forum a little while ago.

For those interested, reading French or using Google translate:
https://alerteauxtoxiques.com/2020/09/1 ... esticides/

And a quick view of this article by a blogger (Marc Vanel):
https://www.marcvanel.be/pesticides-et-hve/

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Re: Pesticides in Bordeaux (mostly...) - French article

#2 Post by Julian Marshall » September 15th, 2020, 8:01 am

Thanks for that, Phil - very interesting but not very surprising. I think I posted myself about a similar report a year or so ago - but I don't remember the wines as being HVE labeled, which I agree is a lot worse. With the outbreak of mildew this year, I imagine the situation will not have improved. I think where my mind boggles is when I consider all the vintages in the recent past, such as 2008 I suspect, where modern techniques allowed apparently decent results, whereas much earlier, the vintages would have been failures. Well, I didn't need another reason not to buy Lascombes, but now I've got one!

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Re: Pesticides in Bordeaux (mostly...) - French article

#3 Post by Markus S » September 15th, 2020, 6:03 pm

Gee, business getting around rules they were supposed to abide by....I'm SHOCKED, I tell you, shocked.
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Re: Pesticides in Bordeaux (mostly...) - French article

#4 Post by Julian Marshall » September 16th, 2020, 12:19 am

Markus S wrote:
September 15th, 2020, 6:03 pm
Gee, business getting around rules they were supposed to abide by....I'm SHOCKED, I tell you, shocked.
Agreed!

The report has now been published by Le Monde as well - which made me think: the other aspect of this I find shocking is that whenever reports like this emerge (not very often), they are never the work of wine journalists. For some publications, like Decanter, RVF or WS, this is hardly surprising, since they accept adverts: if one of them suggested that Lascombes was poisoning its clients, you would not expect to see many full page adverts paid for by Lascombes in the future! But what about the others?

Is the role of a wine journalist simply to tell us what the stuff tastes like?

What would be useful would be a proper, objective analysis of a much wider-ranging selection of wines from different vintages. For example, a vertical of a Bordeaux CC, a Burgundy GC or a major champagne would not just talk about the taste, but also the chemicals in the wines, the changes made over the years - and especially, what the risks really are for our health.

I'm not an organic militant - it would be useful too to know what organic producers are using instead of pesticides and whether they are better for either the soil or one's health.

Anyway, I find it strange in a much better informed world that it should be left to a few consumer associations to actually reveal what is going on.

Update - the list of producers who use and maybe abuse the HVE label is hilarious: it includes Lafite, Haut-Brion, Mouton, both Pichons, J-P Moueix, all Magrez wines, SHL, Calon-Ségur, Brane, Giscours and Figeac, plus most St.Juliens including L-Poyferré.

Wouldn't it be comforting to learn that all those First Growths you never could afford were in fact full of toxic chemicals?!

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Re: Pesticides in Bordeaux (mostly...) - French article

#5 Post by Jason T » September 16th, 2020, 3:58 am

Julian Marshall wrote:
September 16th, 2020, 12:19 am
Markus S wrote:
September 15th, 2020, 6:03 pm
Gee, business getting around rules they were supposed to abide by....I'm SHOCKED, I tell you, shocked.
Is the role of a wine journalist simply to tell us what the stuff tastes like?
It's probably bit jaded of me but I'd say the role of a wine journalist is to sell advertising/subscriptions. I personally feel like the best way to do that is by staying true to your reader, not your advertiser. But then, I look at the world through rose-coloured glasses.
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Phil T r o t t e r
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Re: Pesticides in Bordeaux (mostly...) - French article

#6 Post by Phil T r o t t e r » September 16th, 2020, 7:47 am

Julian Marshall wrote:
September 16th, 2020, 12:19 am
The report has now been published by Le Monde as well - which made me think: the other aspect of this I find shocking is that whenever reports like this emerge (not very often), they are never the work of wine journalists. For some publications, like Decanter, RVF or WS, this is hardly surprising, since they accept adverts: if one of them suggested that Lascombes was poisoning its clients, you would not expect to see many full page adverts paid for by Lascombes in the future! But what about the others?

Is the role of a wine journalist simply to tell us what the stuff tastes like?
I agree it would be great to have more investigative journalism out of these publications but I don't think the wine journalist is seen as the go-to investigative reporter for subjects such as this. It's a shame since it would be their field and industry but historically, they have been tagged as part of the "food" or "living" sections. The same could be said about food critics. You don't see a lot of them writing major pieces on the use of steroids in livestock or pesticides and GM crops. I think these topics go to labeled "investigative reporters" from the publications.
Julian Marshall wrote:
September 16th, 2020, 12:19 am
What would be useful would be a proper, objective analysis of a much wider-ranging selection of wines from different vintages. For example, a vertical of a Bordeaux CC, a Burgundy GC or a major champagne would not just talk about the taste, but also the chemicals in the wines, the changes made over the years - and especially, what the risks really are for our health.
Again, I totally agree. Albeit, if they start a study to see the health impacts of various vintages of Haut-Brion, Krug and DRC on adult males, sign me up! I'll drink it up and report how I feel.

Reports such as the one discussed in this topic are a good start but obviously incomplete. I wonder if someone is working on a health impact study of chemicals in wine? It might take a class action lawsuit to get it going (let's hope it doesn't come to that!). It would be very interesting to see if the harmful chemical components break down after a while in bottle. Are older "toxic" (sic) wines less harmful? Do chemicals impact the taste enough for these wines that it is part of our decision factor when we say: "yes, this one needs time in cellar to integrate"?
Julian Marshall wrote:
September 16th, 2020, 12:19 am
I'm not an organic militant - it would be useful too to know what organic producers are using instead of pesticides and whether they are better for either the soil or one's health.
Absolutely. I think it's the terminology that is misleading. When we hear organic, we think pesticide free which in most countries is not the case. Organic pesticides or herbicides are commonly used in organic agriculture. Don't get me wrong, I am no militant either and understand the need for pesticides, herbicides, GM foods and other modern and scientific strategies to food production but we should be proponents of deeper analyses on health impacts and accurate certification and labeling. All in due time I guess.
Julian Marshall wrote:
September 16th, 2020, 12:19 am
Wouldn't it be comforting to learn that all those First Growths you never could afford were in fact full of toxic chemicals?!
Wouldn't it be mind-blowing that the chemicals in these wines affect the taste enough that some of them are part of the profile that makes 100 points wines?

Question: are the same chemicals found in Black Forest Cake? That could explain the flavor descriptors in some reviews...

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Re: Pesticides in Bordeaux (mostly...) - French article

#7 Post by Markus S » September 16th, 2020, 8:08 am

Phil T r o t t e r wrote:
September 16th, 2020, 7:47 am
Julian Marshall wrote:
September 16th, 2020, 12:19 am
Wouldn't it be comforting to learn that all those First Growths you never could afford were in fact full of toxic chemicals?!
Wouldn't it be mind-blowing that the chemicals in these wines affect the taste enough that some of them are part of the profile that makes 100 points wines?

Question: are the same chemicals found in Black Forest Cake? That could explain the flavor descriptors in some reviews...
Or Red dye 40 in Red Velvet Cake :)
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Re: Pesticides in Bordeaux (mostly...) - French article

#8 Post by Julian Marshall » September 16th, 2020, 8:42 am

Great points Phil!

I'm not going to hold my breath re reports by wine journalists - or anyone else who has a vested interest - but you never know.

As for older wine, I'll just have to stick to my 1945s - at least I know they didn't have any chemicals at the time!

Before any of these reports surfaced, I did ask myself the question about what was used and where, when Phelan-Ségur recalled vintages in the 1980s after discovering that they had been using an extremely toxic spray on the vineyard. The Gardinier family's honesty and integrity, at huge personal cost, was impressive - but it did lead to the question: who else was using the same spray?!

I can remember drinking several top 1997s which gave me an usually acute headache, which also caused me to wonder what was in them.

I think that before the organic movement began, there were questionable techniques all over the world - some of which it's perhaps better that we don't know about - although your question about whether or not the chemical residues disappear over time is an excellent one.

I happen to know for a fact that Black Forest gâteau is full of chemicals, inducing pixelated visions of skyscrapers and formidable culmination creations of epic proportions, simply without peers.

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