Post-Premox: A Quiet Revolution in the Côte de Beaune

Great article by Jon Bonné on how producers are solving premox.

Very interesting Ryan . Oxidizing the must is something JF Coche has always done … Maybe that’s one of the reasons his wines very rarely premox .


Me? Just as my interest was developing in the wines, I was thoroughly scared off by premox, and the attitudes alluded to in the article, that they were more concerned with hushing up the problem than solving it. It’s after all it’s only a little over 20 years since the first vintage that suffered premox. Barely any time at all.

My sympathies go to those shafted by the problem, and who had to drink too many expensive wines far too young, out of fear the wine would be dead if they aged it even to half of what it should be capable of.

I enjoyed the article and thought it was well written as well. And it will be interesting to see if the technique discussed helps alleviate the issue. Mrs., of course, the books are going to be willing to take the risk once again of purchasing these.

Interesting article, but I would suspect it is too soon to know if the “solutions” will work.

A useful summary, but I didn’t see anything new there.

Also, he didn’t elaborate on his reference to “some unfortunate decisions about the quality of corks.”

I haven’t followed individual producers’ track records, so I’m curious: Is there anyone with bad premox problems who didn’t use some combination of gentler pressing, lees stirring and reduced sulfur?

In other words, is it really clear now that it’s some combination of those things that’s at the root of the problem? Or are they still experimenting with their fingers crossed?

I remember seeing oxidized chardonnay must at Matanzas Creek in the early 90s. They swore by it!

I think one of the things that has been discussed with corks is the past was the use of heavily ‘bleached’ corks around this time - and the use of hydrogen peroxide to do so. The corks were made to look a lot ‘cleaner’, but hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizer . . . and therefore the thought is that if these were used, there was potential for this peroxide to get into the wine, eating up free SO2 much faster and therefore leading to oxidation issues faster.


In addition to the prior sins list of ‘gentler pressing, lees stirring, reduced sulfur, not preoxidizing the must and high/variable oxtrans of corks’, the article proposes longer times in barrel (being a problem).

Also, in Remington Norman’s Great Domaines of Burgundy (Second Edition, printed 1996), Remington said JF Coche believes in adding sulfur to the grapes as soon as they are picked to avoid any possibility of oxidation. I assume from this that, at that time at least, he didn’t believe in preoxidizing the must. It also says he stirred the lees.

I’m seeing more and more new world producers experimenting with the must browning technique. When I visited Cooper-Garrod in March, the winemaker had me blind taste two Chardonnay barrel samples. Both were quite similar, but the 2nd sample seemed more complex and better integrated. He told me that for the 2016 vintage, they browned half of their Chardonnay and I had preferred the sample which had undergone the technique. An eye-opening experience that made me a believer.

Somebody posted an article by Denis Dubordieu and Avril Lavigne on this subject. They suggested that the culprit is the lack of glutathione in the wine. Glutathione is a powerful anti oxidant found in lees. The new presses eliminate a lot of lees.

Chardonnay was made w/o must browning here in the '70s and some wines aged well…lots of SO2 was involved. Most Burgundians understand this issue. Indeed I once took a vigneron from Meursault to visit somebody around 1984. The Californian explained why now he was letting the juice brown and explained the science behind it. The Burgundian was quite interested, said he had always wondered why his juice browned and then cleared up.

Speaking of corks, I noted that my last shipment of Hospices de Beaune wine was bottled with Diam corks, but I am not sure what the reasoning was…cork taint?? premox??

If longer time in barrel is an issue, then why do Chardonnays made in the '80s and '90s at wineries like Chalone and Au Bon Climat age so well?? They were usually bottled after 18 months in barrel.

I hadn’t heard that. Thanks for the info.

I’m not if you intended that last phrase the way it reads. It sounds like you’re saying part of the problem was long barrel aging. But Bonne seems to be saying, to the contrary, that longer times in barrel and/or tank seem to help prevent premox.

I’ve been told that the chemistry of hydrogen peroxide contributing to premox doesn’t make any sense though I can’t comment on that from any personal knowledge.

A cork issue would make sense. The premox problem gets a lot of airtime for Burgundy but the problem is not limited to Burgundy. I’ve dumped a few Chapoutier whites and Guigal Ex-Votos in the last few weeks. All the corks had a silver grayish tint at the bottom where they contact the wine. I have no idea what chemical reaction causes that but I’ve only seen it on corks from premoxed bottles. The darker the color, the more oxidized is the wine.

And, as always, take a look at the corks on premoxed bottles. They are usually hard as rocks; coated often with silicone or some other lubricant. Hard to imagine they make a consistently good seal from bottle to bottle.

Then, look at good bottles, particularly older ones…where the corks are soft and spongy. Good for making good seals.

The wines are more vulnerable…probably. But, many bottles are, nevertheless, fine. The only variable is the seal.

Just read the article: nothing new. This problem won’t be solved by artisanal winemakers chewing the fat together. That’s been tried for the last 20 years now. And, these guys don’t even mention corks. The bad bottles are the ones to focus on. Why change the wine…if most bottles are fine at 20 years…IF they are? Figure out why the bad ones are bad, ie, the variables. It might not be the wines at all.

Blair Pethel has also discussed doing this the two times I have visited with him.

I have always wondered if the high scores Parker gave to Verget’s 1992 wines had anything to do with this. The article makes it sound like it:

“Many gravitated to the pneumatic presses coming into fashion at the time, which promised to treat grapes more gently, and sought to minimize the contact between grape skins and juice. Some dramatically reduced the amount of the preservative sulfur dioxide in the wines, hoping to make them more approachable. And they often aggressively stirred the lees in barrels, a technique that could bolster the texture of what might otherwise have been anemic, acidic wines. The technique defined the buxom California style popular at the time, and it continued to be used in Burgundy even as more careful farming delivered riper, healthier, more concentrated fruit that did not necessarily need as much lees-inflected enrichment.”

Wasn’t Guffens a pioneer in using some of these techniques in the Cotes du Beaune.

nice article–mail it to Domaine Leflaive.

I haven’t spoken with any Burgundian vignerons that think the issue is behind them.

Yeah, with a bill.