Schrodinger's White Burgundy

About a year ago, there was a post that raised a way of thinking about premox that was new to me:

Where Guillaume postulated that bottles are either premoxed or not, there is no continuum of in-between-ness. That made me think of a wine bottle in the same way as Schrodinger’s cat: the wine is either alive or dead, we can think of it having a superposition of probabilities of being one or the other, but it’s not until we uncork it that we’ll know.

If true, then the way to think about a bottle of white Burgundy is that it’s either premoxed or not, but opening it earlier than you might have otherwise (with the exception of opening it very early after release) won’t change the outcome. You might as well just keep it and cross your fingers that it will be alive when you open it, not dead.

So, do you treat your white Burgs like this? Or do you believe there really is a continuum of premox, and that you might still catch a bottle before it rolls off the cliff?

a cat may be alive or dead but there is also a process leading from life to death during which the animal (and bottle of wine) is in the process of dying. That’s what happens w premox. We sometimes catch the premoxing bottle–hanging on to life but dying.

My introduction to White Burgundy was after the 1996 vintage and before hanging around a wine board. I liked them and ended up with a fair bit of 2000-2004. After that I bought just a few, and stopped completely after the '08 vintage. So I’ve taken the Schroedinger position - the cat’s either gonna be alive or not - may as well wait and see how they age.

Alan, sure - I’m drinking a bottle like that right now (Chenin Blanc, but same idea). It’s just starting to show some early signs of premox, but still rather enjoyable. So the question is: is premox a slow, gradual transition, or is it a rapid fall, which once started, goes quickly?

For a given winery and vintage if you have a large sample size and open cases of same vintage at 4 years, 8 years, and 12 years post vintage and if premox % is the same you will have your answer.

My believe is that a given wine is either predisposed to premox or not. However, that does not mean every bottle will magically either be premoxed at some point shortly after release, or the idea that you should hold it anyway and hope is ludicrous. Clearly (to me) there is a continuum, but once a specific bottle turns darker in the bottle, it is too late.

As a strategy you either:

  1. Drink all your wines early before they have a chance to mature (and those predisposed to premox to begin their decline). For me, these wines are not worth their hefty premium if they cannot be safely left to mature.

  2. Age the wines normally and resign yourself to throwing 1/3 to 1/2 of them down the sink. For me, essentially doubling the cost of already absurdly priced wine is unreasonable. Unless you have a good friend to drink with who doesn’t mind throwing out half of their expensive bottles in order to drink some properly aged WB’s.

  3. Give up drinking white Burgundy.

None seem like good options.

My option would be for everyone on here to go with strategy 3 and stop drinking white burgs. Prices then decline and I’ll take my chances with strategy 2!

Very selfish I know, so more pragmatic option is some hybrid approach where we substitute some Riesling for burgs and have a reliable fall back option to drink if premix hits!

There is a small continuum. The difference is between a wine you will drink and one you put down the sink. It is a bottle by bottle lottery for those wines which are unstable wine and then corked with a primitive and variable closure.

All I know is that if I drink a WB young and it’s premoxed I lose; if I drink a WB young and it’s not…I lose the chance to have it age into a beauty, which is why I bought it. So…I decided a long time ago, I’d rather try for the payoff since the safer options are both “losers” for me…with no potential payoff. Like drinking a young grand cru red…I kill any upside and have very little gratification.

And…I don’t think the bad rate is “1/3-1/2”…at least mine hasn’t been that high.

St. Aubin.

Just to be pedantic, in the case of Schrodiner’s cat, the point is that the box in which the cat is will never be opened so whether it is alive or dead has no consequence for anything else in the universe. This was the analogy used to explain a superposition in physics. Since one will open a bottle and it will be premoxed or not (and not therefore both or neither) and the difference will matter to you, I don’t think the analogy is wonderful. I do take your point though.

Lay 'em down and take your chances.

My premox rate is much lower than 30%. Certainly it’s annoying when it happens, but wine is a hand crafted living product.

I anticipate some variation and accept imperfection. What other food is stored for decades and then expected to be consumed in a perfectly predictable state?

Of course I’m not nearly so sanguine when I’ve just opened a damaged bottle. Happily my mood can be rejuvenated by pulling the next cork.

As the poet from NJ named “Bruce” (who grew up nearby to me) wrote in “Prove it All Night”:

Everybody’s got a hunger, a hunger they can’t resist,
There’s so much that you want, you deserve much more than this,
But if dreams came true, oh, wouldn’t that be nice,
But this ain’t no dream we’re living through tonight,
Girl, you want it, you take it, you pay the price.

Prove it all night, prove it all night

I’d rather pay the price and get a chance to “prove it all night”…than kill that chance in late morning.

EVwb = x(1-p) + y_p_ and EVOthWh = x’(1-p) + y’p

EVwb is expected value (i.e. utility) of white burgundy and EVOthWh is expected value of other white wine
x / x’ is pleasure/payback from drinking white burg / other whites
y / y’ is disappointment/depression from premoxed white burg / other whites
and where x and y are functions of price and time value of holding/aging wine and the time aged

If EVwb > EVOthWh, buy white burg and age, otherwise don’t

Of course laid out like this kind of ruins the experience of the hobby!

Well, if you subscribe to the Copenhagen interpretation, the quantum state of a system is a superposition of its possible wave functions - until you observe the system, when it must collapse 100% to one of those possible states (obviously a simplified explanation). I’m just a simple Chemist, not a Physicist, but to me that adequately describes the situation we have with an unopened 10 year old bottle of White Burgundy on the table in front of us :wink:

Superposition is indeed originally a concept in quantum mechanics. It’s definition may be as you say. I can never follow the math. I do know that Shrodinger’s cat was meant to question the Copehagen interpretation. So I don’t know that you can follow both. Using the Copenhagen position is beyond me as an analogy. But I still think the Shrodinger’s cat one won’t work as the bottle will have to remain unopened and it would have to not matter whether it is oxidized, not oxidized, neither or both.

Regarding option #2, here’s a little project I did last month to dispose of some of my friend’s wine.
All of these wines, and another group of about equal size, were preselected by my friend as advanced based purely on color as seen thru the glass. Other bottles of the same wines may have been kept, but I don’t know how many he might have held on to. Just for giggles, before disposing of them, I cut the capsules off all bottles, looking for mold (see the mold v. no mold thread), not expecting to find much. Only a couple of bottles showed any mold, and it wasn’t much when they did.

Of all these wines, only 1 was not premoxed, and it did have mold. The rest were opened, splashed into a decanter, which confirmed both the dark color, and the oxidised aromas. They were then dumped down the drain.

This picture shows two btls of 2000 Ramonet Bienvenue, one whose cork showed no mold, one with mold. I will leave it to you to determine which is which!

Hey, it’s just some wine fun, not meant to be a rigorous application of the concept :wink: But if you prefer, the real message is that an unopened bottle of White Burgundy has some probability of being good, and some of being premoxed. Notwithstanding the fact that there may be (as Anthony and others have pointed out, with great experience to back them up) a narrow window where a bottle is in transition but still marginally drinkable, the takeaway for me is that premox isn’t something that affects all bottles, and you have some probability of having a perfectly fine bottle at any age. Unless it is a Thierry Matrot, in which case it was premoxed before it left the winery…

Alan, I think you are absolutely spot on. I take it that any given bottle would have a probability of being able to age without premoxing vs a chance that it will fall over prematurely. As you mention, the ‘partial premox’ from good to premoxed is just catching that individual bottle as it is in the process of transitioning to the premoxed state.

The point i was trying to make (admittedly not very well) with my post above is that the buying decision needs to implicitly consider this uncertainty, and that the payoff (i.e. drinking pleasure) from successfully aging a white burg needs to overcome the trade-off of getting only negative result of premox with some subset of white burgs, averaged out across all trials of the wines purchased. This is the ‘expected value’ bit.

Probability theory says this is how we should think to make good, rational buying/investment decisions; but for wines this doesn’t seem to be very easy. How can we know the probability of premox? How can we quantify the pleasure/pain trade-offs? (i don’t think we can, its too subjective!).

I would actually propose that if you take this rational approach, you should not age white burg, because the opportunity cost is too high: what other fine wine category has this risk of being totally undrinkable due to product failure? Given this, the pleasure on success needs to be really high to overcome the failures and make you even accept the risk vs. buying and aging alternative wines that you can guarantee to be drinkable.

And as for strategy 1 of just early drinking, well in this case the choice needs to stand on its own: do you prefer to drink young white burgs vs other similar age whites and is the price appropriate?