What flaw was I tasting?

Was gifted a bottle of 2016 Damien Coquelet Chiroubles (Gamay). Opened it with the understanding that it was going to be interesting/funky, so had an open mind about what it would be. Ultimately, convinced it was flawed, but have limited experience identifying flaws so curious what was wrong with this one.

To start: wife got “fishiness” on the nose (I just got funk) and then the initial taste was almost effervescent/electric, which was not what I expected (didn’t seem intentional)

Decided to give it time in glass to see if it would settle down, which it seemed to do. It was certainly interesting with lots of barnyard/earth (which I generally appreciate) and raspberry, but ultimately not particularly enjoyable.

Decided to put in the fridge overnight to see if it would improve next day. It was similar but actually worse on day 2. Poured the rest down the drain.

What was I tasting? Heat damage? Brett? Something else?

worse on day two could be mousiness.

Was it actually slightly effervescent or did it just taste lifted/electric/zippy? The lifted/electric/zippy mouthful is often a characteristic of wines that have undergone carbonic maceration, Beaujolais being the classic example of it. If the wine had actual effervescence it may be that the wine still had some residual sugar when bottling and it went a slight secondary fermentation in bottle. The fishy smell may just have been from a slightly unclean glass that had some residual soap on it.

Wasnt actually effervescent, just tasted electric/zippy but that faded.

Might have been the carbonic maceration then. Some winemakers also intentionally dissolve a slight amount of CO2 into the wine, not enough to make the wine effervescent, but it tends to make the wine taste brighter/zippier, so it could be that as well. You might also just enjoy wines with carbonic maceration, nothing wrong with that.

The worst on day two could be oxidation. When a wine is chilled it slows the rate of the chemical reaction between oxygen and the wine is slowed down, but the the amount of oxygen that the wine absorbs is increased at lower temps. In the opposite direction a warmer wine will react more with oxygen, but the amount of oxygen that the wine can absorb is lower. So what I often see happen is that if you put an open bottle in the fridge overnight, the oxygen remaining in the bottle is more easily dissolved into the wine and as it is warmed up to serving temp the wine oxidises.

It sounds to me like carbonic (intentionally) plus some microbial activity (hope that was unintentional). The former is not a flaw. The latter is, in my book. Earth/barnyard would suggest brett as a possibility. Count me as anti-brett, but not to the point that I won’t drink a mildly bretty wine. The fishiness is not something I typically associate with brett. I have experienced something like that but no idea what it comes from.


Was this by any chance a low-sulfur or no-added-sulfur wine? Sometimes they can have strange, off notes, but there’s a lot of variation in people’s sensitivity to those things.

I’ve never heard of brett described as “fishy.” Most people experience it as sweaty saddle, dirty socks or (very different) latex bandaid.

Someone else mentioned “mousiness,” which I wondered about. It’s pretty common in “natural”/low-sulfur wines, and resembles a mouse cage that needs cleaning. It’s only experienced retro-nasally, as the wine goes down your throat and the aromas go into your sinuses. I.e., it’s an after-aroma, like an aftertaste, which makes it quite distinctive. But one-third of the population cannot perceive it. Perhaps you’re in the one-third and your wife is in the two-thirds, and you were put off by something different.

Effervescence is not uncommon. It can be leftover CO2 from fermentation. In red wines that are aged and moved from tank to tank, or barrel to barrel, the CO2 evaporates out of the wine. But wines that are bottled relatively young without a lot of tank/barrel movement – as Beaujolais is – often have some. For the same reasons, it’s not uncommon in whites.

Thanks all. Very helpful. Upon reflection carbonic maceration does seem intentional/likely here… but the initial zippiness wasn’t really the issue, I mostly mentioned in the event it was an indicator of a broader problem. “Mousiness” was a new term for me. Upon some googling, that plus some unintentional microbal activity seems to fit. To be clear, I actually like some brett (love Musar and enjoyed some other Cru Beaujolais recently), so I don’t think this was a case of just being over sensitive to a particular wine making style. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to try this wine again at some point for a comparison.

Agree with John in presuming this is a no/low sulfur wine. You can get all sorts of weirdness, to varying degrees, in those. A small amount of SO2 doesn’t protect against everything, but quite a lot. I’ve had “fishy” in wines. Not sure about this one, but many of these odd notes in wine really are the same compound, so this could be the same bacteria that makes less-than-fresh fish “fishy”. I’ve had B.O. in wine now and then, like it was straight from a French winemaker’s arm pit. Some of the more extreme cheeses will smell of things like athletes foot, and be from the same fungus. These microbes are all around us…

The “electric” comment makes me suspect acetic acid in the mix. That can lift the aromatics, and at a certain level be hard to pinpoint, but add a weird taste (in conjunction with all the other compounds).

Here’s a vote for brett

“fishiness” was whit I detected in a lot of mid-level priced Napa cabs through about 2010. More like a dirty aquarium. This was the reason we had stopped buying then for a very long time. A visit in 2018 changed that.

Haven’t had the 16, but here’s a note I wrote on the 14 a year ago:

2014 Damien Coquelet Chiroubles Vieilles Vignes - France, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Chiroubles (11/14/2019)
A distinct green-like note on the nose, is it carbonic? brett? not entirely sure; palate is darker gamay fruit, some sweeter raspberry notes, along with a good dose of fairly prickly and piercing acidity. This note is from a glass after the bottle was open for 2 days, and the cork released with a distinct pop, so I wonder if there is some low level bacterial thing going on here. My wife would not drink it. (84 pts.)

The 2016 Cote du Py had a distinct lactic acid quality I don’t care for. I have put this producer my list to avoid, at least for the time being.

The flaw is gamay

Phish? flirtysmile

The flaws you detected square with this description of the winemaking from the website of LDM, the importer. It cites “zero intervention in the cellar” and “little if any sulfur at bottling.” Sometimes it’s not best to let nature run its course.

The pop of the cork on day 2 might have been due to CO2, though, not bacterial action.

really interesting. sounds quite consistent with my experience.

What a useless comment.

+1 for Brett having perhaps consumed some residual sugars

Though I wonder if mousiness might be part of the equation, too…

The instability of the wines makes this sort of producer—and by extension this region as a whole—quite challenging to review.

Oh, come on. If you know Adrian, that was a playful provocation. I’m a gamay fan and I chuckled. [cheers.gif]

Nah, he’s dis’d gamay before, it didn’t seem playful to me. Given that just last week I drank a gamay that was at least as good as many 1er cru Burgs, and I drink and enjoy a lot of “daily” gamay on a regular basis, I find the comment just silly, and unproductive.