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Californian producer under fire for Burgundy bashing

Cult Sonoma winery Marcassin has suffered an online backlash after its owners criticised Burgundian winemaking.

The “explanation of why the Burgundians struggle so with ripeness” in the latest newsletter from Marcassin owners Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer was sparked by the response of Robert Parker to their 2006 wines.

The pair presented these to the wine critic alongside a 2006 Chevalier Montrachet from Domaine Leflaive and 2006 La Tâche from Domaine de la Romanée Conti.

During the tasting the Leflaive was dismissed as “thin, acidic, botrytised” and the La Tâche as “if anything worse,” with Parker declaring the DRC wine “dwarfed by the prodigious Marcassin.”

Turley and Wetlaufer then proceed to offer advice to Burgundian winemakers, criticising their canopy management and virus problems, while questioning “why they want to add vegetative and phenolic material, viz, the stems of the whole clusters (stems and berries) to their fermentors, thus further exaggerating the impression of underipeness.”

The newsletter even found time to cast aspersions on the integrity of the UK wine trade, with a remark in its extensive footnotes saying: “Are we British wine merchants or closet British wine ‘critics,’ that wish to continue being welcome at the domaine?”

Wine forums on both sides of the Atlantic reacted with outrage to these opinions. Dr Vino pointed out that “Parker has not reviewed the wines of Burgundy personally for over a decade,” while referring to “Burghound” Allen Meadows’ assessment of the DRC 2006 La Tâche as a “don’t miss!”

However, there were those who leapt to Marcassin’s defence, with one contributor to Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages observing: “If one reads the entire newsletter from Marcassin one certainly can agree to disagree but the folks at Marcassin have at least provided plenty of supporting evidence for their statements.”

Nevertheless, beneath the opinions flying across the forums about the quality of both DRC, Burgundy and the Marcassin wines themselves, there lay an unease about what one Purple Pager described as “unprovoked trash tactics” to promote one’s own wines.

Marcassin is certainly not the first producer to put its wines up for comparison alongside prestigious names – Robert Mondavi was one of the first to adopt the practice, which is now regularly used as a marketing exercise by New World wineries around the world. However, for a single producer to take a swipe at an entire region takes this game up to an entirely new level.

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