TN: 2000 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne

  • 2000 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru (1/27/2017)
    This was a bottle that was recently acquired from the Domaine and in as splendid condition as one could hope for. It poured out with an iridescent green tinge. The nose had pure white peach, some aniseed, flint and something lactic. In the mouth it had a rigid spine and the rich peach fruits had a buttery edge. It had great intensity and drive and finished with fabulous grapefruit cut.

Posted from CellarTracker

Thanks for the note, Jeremy. Your note reminds me of a bottle of the 2000 that I drank in 2008 – young, vibrant, brilliant future ahead; it was from a three-pack I purchased in 2003. By 2013, however, the remaining two bottles (stored well all that time) were hopelessly oxidized.

Good bottles of this wine are stunning! Thanks Jeremy. I have had a few that were advanced. All purchased in the US so I can’t vouch that they weren’t handled poorly. Significant improvements have happened at Bonneau du Martray since 2007 or so if you ask me. I see Frank’s bad outcome so it seems maybe I am jumping the gun a little but I have had zero problems since 2007. I love this stuff.

good to hear. Not sure the experience of dcornutt is mirrored by others. What specific improvements has BdM made–more sulfur or what? Certainly no money back guarantee.

Alan. I don’t have any specifics. To me it seems they sulfur a little more but I haven’t talked with anybody in the know. 2008 is a problematic year even for the best producers. The Leflaives are almost a total loss.

A bottle in 2016 opened without great expectations turned out to be a beautiful mature bottle of white burgundy. Not as youthful as Jeremy’s but with a healthy colour, good acidity and no pmox signs. There might be hope for the remaining 3.

The 2000 vintage is what I consider to be BDM’s last high quality vintage. But my calling it a “high quality” vintage has a huge caveat or asterisk. I went through a full case of it between February 2008 and late 2011. Of those 12 bottles, two were fully oxidized, two were advanced, five bottles I rated at 94 points and three bottles at 93. Yes, I realize that most people would consider that having one-third of the bottles you open from a case being oxidized or advanced as completely unacceptable performance and inconsistent with a conclusion that it is a “high quality vintage” for that producer – but such relativism is the unfortunate fact of life of Bonneau du Martray since the 1990 vintage.

Since the 2000 vintage, every vintage I’ve tasted (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008) has been disappointing – either because of overwhelming premox problems (e.g. 2002, 2004, 2006), or because the wine was just unimpressive and disappointing for what was once the second best producer in Corton Charlemagne.

Except for the occasional single library bottle for my annual premox dinners, I completely stopped buying Bonneau du Martray after the 2002 vintage. Obviously a lot of other people did too.

What I never have understood is the attitude from Jean-Charles Le Bault de la Morinière, until very recently the regisseur of the Domaine. Around 2004 or 2005 a good friend of mine was going to burgundy and he went armed with a variety of questions about premox incidence and steps being taken to deal with the problem that he wanted to ask to several white burgundy producers. One of the places he arranged to visit, through courtier Peter Wasserman, was BdM. When my friend spoke to Jean-Charles, he refused to acknowledge that BDM had any premoxed wines and completely refused to answer his questions about steps to deal with premox or questions about things like free SO2 levels, cork-related issues, etc. Mr. Wasserman thereafter took my friend to the proverbial woodshed and told him that premox was an off-limits subject for most producers and unless they themselves bring it up, he was to ask no more questions about premox or all of the remaining visits that Wasserman had arranged would be cancelled.

I met Jean-Charles twice, most recently at the Paulee in San Francisco in 2012. By that point Jean-Charles at least acknowledged that BdM had some premox issues, but he was still unwilling to discuss any details about the wine making process or whether the Domaine had taken any steps to combat premox. By that point he was very familiar with my annual premox tastings and my commentary about BdM over the years, to which he said he took considerable exception. He was polite but completely uncompromising. He said that if I made a trip to see him in Burgundy he would then discuss premox with me.

While I haven’t visited BdM, I wasn’t really surprised to see the January 5th press release that majority ownership of the Domaine has been sold to Stan Kroenke. To me, either a sale of the Domaine or a change of management by the family had seemed inevitable.

I can only hope that the change of ownership and management (Armand de Maigret is the new regisseur) will be a change for the better and that Bonneau du Martray will once again become a Corton that I want to have in my cellar.

you have been dancing in a minefield and quite lucky.

Thanks for your background report, Don, and this is what horns me off so much, the widespread denial on the part of the producers. “Just buy our damn wines and STFU!”

What is really ironic is that the white burgundy producers refer to premox as “cancer” for white wines among themselves. They know that the fact that so many of them have pathetically high incidence of premox is killing their sales and in some cases (e.g. Jadot, Fontaine-Gagnard, Blain-Gagnard, Matrot, Bonneau du Martray) killing the value of their brands and yet there are still several of the worst offenders who simply refuse to acknowledge that premox exists or that there is any problem with their wines.

I can give you another example of the same type of behavior. About eight years ago Christophe Roumier notified me that he would be coming to Los Angeles for a visit before the Paulee in San Francisco. He explained that Diageo, who was then his importer, was going to host a series of small wine dinners in Los Angeles with their portfolio of producers and that he would be there at one of the dinners with the Diageo representatives. Someone from Diageo called me and invited me to attend the dinner that Christophe would be at. The Diageo rep told me that Jean-Marc Blain and his wife Claudine (Gagnard) would also be at the dinner, as well as Pierre-Emanuel Gelin of Domaine Pierre Gelin. (Pierre-Emanuel had just taken over from his faither.) So I pulled a couple of interesting older Roumier wines for the dinner. I didn’t have any Blain-Gagnard or Pierre Gelin wine in my cellar, but I did have a bottle of 1996 Gagnard-Delagrange Montrachet, which was produced by Claudine’s father and which was from the same set of vines from which the Blain-Gagnard Montrachet was now produced, so I brought it with me.

At the dinner I was seated at the same table as the winemakers (an unusual arrangement I thought) directly across from Christophe Roumier. When we opened the 1996 Montrachet the color was deep gold and the aromas were I thought obviously oxidized, plus oddly yeasty. Vigorous swirling seemed to somewhat dissipate the yeast aromas problem (but not for long) but not the sherry-like notes in the aromas and on the palate. So I said, “I’m sorry. It’s obviously oxidized.” But Jean-Marc Blain insisted that there was nothing wrong with the wine and that it only need more time and that if we gave it more time it would come around. Someone else at the table from the trade suggested to Jean-Marc that the sherry notes did seem to be premox, but he was even more insistent at that point that the wine was just fine and just needed more time. Christophe just looked at me and very subtly shook his head side to side. A few minutes later, when Jean-Marc and his wife briefly left the table, Christophe apologized to me and my good friend Michael Zadikian who attended with me. Christophe said “yes the wine is very obviously oxidized, and no, it will not improve with any amount of air or time.” Christophe said that he finds it increasingly uncomfortable to be around his fellow producers at public functions when they simply refuse to acknowledge when their wines are premoxed.

Although I didn’t attend myself, I also received multiple reports about Anne-Claude Leflaive attending the Paulee in New York about six weeks before her death and opening bottle after bottle of oxidized Leflaives. She just poured away and pretended nothing was wrong and when anyone suggested that the bottle she was pouring from was oxidized, she disagreed and insisted that the wine was just fine.

Hi Don,

We brought up premox with Jean-Charles around 10 years ago and he was open and frank about the fact that it was a problem. We also had a similar discussion with Claudine Blain around the same time and she admitted to the problem as well, noting that it first showed up around 1993. Blain-Gagnard subsequently have bottled some Chassagne for their Australian importer with screwcap closure so they are certainly trying to tackle the problem.

Best Regards
Jeremy

It seems that only those who are putting wax on the capsules are almost immune now. Coche Dury is the outlier. They seem to have very few problems. Raveneau, PYCM, Caroline Morey and Bernard Moreau are committed to wax on the capsules.

All of the others seem to be affected in some way. I have had problems with William Fevre, Boillot, Sauzet from 07, Niellon and even Paul Pernot (although to a much lower extent with Pernot).

I wonder if they are all going to have to go to some kind of better enclosure like screw cap or wax top to save their product. Right now the wines still sell. I buy them and drink them young. FWIW.

So sad; there was a time when my chief wine fantasy would have been to have a cellar full of Leflaives. No mas.

Opened at Lucques last night, and while still enjoyable, it was fairly advanced. And I have a pretty high tolerance for oxidation:)
Blinded, I would’ve called mid-80s Hanzell.

This is so depressing. Having dumped many premoxed white Burgs over the years that I spent a lot of coin on it is frustrating and annoying that the problem is not acknowledged or even denied. I know this has been discussed ad nauseum but there is no other product on earth that would not be discontinued or changed with this track record.

I had the same experience a few years ago with Anne Claude Leflaive in Züruch. Talking about pmox led to the statement that it isn’t existing and pmox is the result of poor handling and storage. It’s a pity that nobody is interested esp. as old vintages are performing perfectly ( til 95/96 depending on the producer with Leflaive even til 2000/01/)It should be so easy to detect the different handling.
Cheers
Rainer

Don:

There is no single magic bullet fix for this problem. That’s because the cause of premox in the first place was likely from a series of changes that occurred over time that worked concurrently to cause premox. That includes: (1) modern pneumatic computer controlled presses that changed the amount and character of the phenols extracted and produced “cleaner juice” with much lower phenols which are the primary oxidation buffer; (2) lowered SO2 levels in the mid 1990s due to the mistaken belief that the cleaner juice from the new presses reduced the need for SO2; (3) increasing and substantial variability in oxygen transmission rates in corks which resulted from more frequent harvesting of cork trees, irrigation of cork tree groves, and greatly increased demand for cork, and (4) increased use of automated bottling lines that increased the amount of dissolved oxygen left in the bottle at the time of bottling. There are a couple of other arguable contributing causes I could add to the list, but they are more debatable.

Since almost everyone in burgundy concedes that the large variation in oxygen transmission rates through or around the corks has played a substantial role in premox, and unquestionably accounts for the considerable bottle to bottle variability within a single case, changes made dealing with sealing of the bottles have gotten the most publicity. The two approaches most frequently used are DIAM closures and changing the diameter and length of the natural cork used. Were it not for the fact that Raveneau uses that very hard wax, I don’t think that anyone would be talking about wax as a solution.

DIAM closures are considered “technical closures” and are made from agglomerated cork (which is ground into fine pellets, sifted to a uniform consistency and then glued with a food-grade binder.) DIAM has a patented process in which the cork pellets are treated with CO2 under temperature and pressure in order to remove TCA. DIAM claims that its closures provide very tightly controlled long-term oxygen transmission rates which are far more uniform from bottle to bottle than natural cork. There is laboratory data which seems to support this claim. DIAM closures were first used on high end white burgundies starting with a few producers (Bouchard, Montille and Chateau de Puligny Montrachet, Roger Belland and Patrick Javillier) in the 2009 vintage. More and more producers have adopted DIAM since then, including Domaine Leflaive (2014 vintage), Lafon (2013), Jadot (2011), Fevre (2010) and many others. See my Oxidized Burgundies wiki site for the complete list. http://oxidised-burgs.wikispaces.com/

The other trend that seems to be occurring among producers that continue to use natural cork is the use of longer corks (with longer bottle necks to insure a tight seal along the full length of the cork) and slightly increasing the diameter of the corks. The standard cork diameter employed in burgundy is 24 mm. Some producers, such as Sauzet, Niellon and Colin-Morey, began using 25 mm diameter corks in the same sized bottle necks starting with the 2010 vintage as a means of obtaining a tighter seal. This requires both greater compression force to initially seal the bottles and greater extraction force to remove the corks. Whether wax seals make a material difference in oxygen transmission rates has been debated over time and remains subject to dispute. Raveneau continues to believe in it, as does Pierre-Yves Colin of Colin-Morey, but the wax that each uses are very different and there is no published data that I’ve seen about whether it has any impact. But it is something you can point to and say, “See, we are serious about dealing with the premox problem.”

For wines sold in the Australian and New Zealand markets, Stelvin (screwcap) closures are a potential solution as well. But as much it may frustrate Jeremy and Paul Hanna and my other friends in Australia and New Zealand, Stelvin closures are simply not commercially acceptable at this point to wine consumers in the US and Europe. Use of Stelvin closures can also require changes in the wine-making process and can sometimes require a wine to be treated with copper sulfate (a definite no-no among most European health agencies) because of Stelvin’s tendency to drive reductive reactions in the bottle. (And I might add that widespread use of Stelvin closures would turn an already nightmarish wine counterfeiting problem into a horror movie of gargantuan proportions.)

The preliminary indications are that DIAM closures work as advertised – essentially like cork from 40 years ago did. My friend David Ramey from Ramey Wine Cellars, who began using DIAM corks on his wines a few vintages ago, is thoroughly convinced. They’ve been running tests comparing regular cork closures and DIAM for several years. I’ve opened a few 2009 whites with DIAM closures and so far I have not experienced any bottles that were advanced or oxidized. We’ll get to taste about 10 DIAM closed bottles in March when we hold the 2009 Vintage Assessment and Premox Check dinners.

Thanks Don for the detailed answer. I, for one, appreciate it. Your #1 reason is the one I have heard from Laurent Ponsot. He told me about this 8 or 9 years ago or so. He is a firm believer in the fact that certain oxidizable compounds get into the final mix that would have been removed with more vigorous pressing. That is the reason he feels Coche Dury doesn’t have the problem despite using traditional closures. Wished there was a magic bullet.

Unfortunately I don’t reckon Diam is the panacea for the premox pain. I have a couple of Journo mates here who taste thousands of wines a year, many now sealed with Diam, and they reckon you can pick the Diam wines blind and with age they look really flat. One particular producer here championed the Diam for close to a decade but really didn’t like how his wines showed after 8-9 years and has now switched to screwcap.

Having just spent 3.5 weeks in The States I can see the resistance you are up against regarding screwcap. It just isn’t on the producers radar and is still thought of as a closure for cheap wines only. This is very sad as our Industry moved on mass in the early 2000’s and it only took a couple of years for this closure to gain widespread public acceptance. We had massive premox problems in the 90’s with Riesling, Semillon and Chardonnay here in Australia. I have never had a premox’d white under screwcap and have drunk 100’s of bottles. The wines age beautifully under this closure, a 2005 Grosset Watervale Riesling on the weekend was perfectly mature yet incredibly fresh and detailed.

Jeremy:

2009 is the first vintage with any significant white burgundy under DIAM. The wines are only 7.5 years old at this point. There are only about 12 bottles of high end 1er or grand cru burgundy from the 2009 vintage that were bottled with DIAM closures, and I’ll have about 10 of those in the upcoming tastings. There clearly aren’t thousands of bottles of DIAM closed burgundies out there to be compared. I’ve opened three 2009 DIAM grand crus bottles in the last 45 days and none were flat at all – in fact all were surprisingly fresh and youthful, especially compared to the 2005s (a fairly similar vintage based on sugars and acidity at harvest) at the same stage. There were also no unexpected or unusual aromas or flavors. I can’t draw any conclusions from only three bottles opened at the traditional measuring stick of 7.5 years, but I certainly like what I have seen so far. Two months from now I’ll have a better feel for the DIAM closed 2009s vs those in conventional corks, but the sample will still be pretty small.

The same group of people in the Australian wine press, who have a vested interest in the status quo as it exists in Oz (i.e. mostly screw caps), have been making the claim for years that wines closed with DIAM had detectable aroma or flavor differences. David Ramey who has bottled quantities of the same wine under under both DIAM and conventional cork for several years, and who continues to open and test them and taste them to see how the develop over time, says that’s BS and there are absolutely no such different aromas or flavors. The DIAM binder material, polyurethane, is I believe the same material used to make the Stelvin membranes. David Ramey says that the only thing that’s different about the DIAM closed bottles is that they are almost always fresher and less developed than the same wine bottled under conventional cork. Etienne de Montille said essentially the same thing.

Decanter ran an article about the DIAM closures in August of 2016 by Andrew Jefford. http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/opinion/jefford-on-monday/jefford-on-monday-debating-diam-8087/ As reported there, the Australian and NZ folks in the trade that he polled about DIAM made the same sorts of claims you describe. Jefford found nothing to support it. One of the more interesting sentences in the article was this one:

  • At least one Australian producer (James Tilbrook from the Adelaide Hills), in fact, said his customers did indeed prefer Diam-stopped wines over screwcap in blind tasting conditions, and there were other Australian enthusiasts from the Barossa (Matt McCulloch of Ch Tanunda) and Coonawarra (Sandrine Gimon of Rymill). Michael Dhillon of Bindi in the Macedon Ranges has almost ten years’ experience with Diam – and is still happy with this closure for his Pinot.