Burgundy seminar report part 1: Reducing the risk of premox

10th January, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt - This article is over multiple pages: 1 2

Sediments, sulphur and closure quality are key to reducing the risk of premature oxidation in white Burgundy, it was revealed in a London-based seminar this week.

Burgundy's Hospices de Beaune

Burgundy’s Hospices de Beaune

The event, entitled “How to make the best Burgundy”, was organsied by the Institute of Masters of Wine, and saw Jasper Morris MW coax the winemaking secrets out of Etienne de Montille of Domaine de Montille; Dominique Lafon of Domaines des Comtes Lafon, Bernard Hervet of Domaine Faiveley and Benjamin Leroux of Domaine Comte Armand.

Beginning with a detailed look at white winemaking, starting from the moment the grapes arrive in the cellar, it became quickly clear that the quality, quantity and handling of the lees is one crucial element to ensuring the longevity of top Chardonnay from the Cote d’Or.

Hence, initially, the discussion centred on the impact of crushing, and the role of pressing and settling, as these processes have a direct impact on the amount and quality of sediment in the juice – a cloudy must filled with fine sediment requires whole bunches, gentle pressing and a light settling.

Etienne de Montille, Dominique Lafon and Benjamin Leroux all said they transfer the grapes straight to pneumatic presses without crushing to yield fine sediments that can be kept during winemaking and maturation.

“It’s a matter of style,” said Lafon. “You get different types of sediments if you crush or don’t crush… but my feeling is that if you don’t crush the grapes you get more elegant flavours.”

However, Bernard Hervet of Domaine Faiveley said he had gone back to an “old school” of winemaking which involved crushing the grapes along with a light settling because he found the incorporation of more solids and phenolics provided a powerful protective influence against oxidation.

Dominique Lafon

Dominique Lafon

“The wines are less pure and show less well for journalists when they are young, but I’m more confident to make them this way after 30 years in Burgundy.”

All the winemakers were agreed however on the importance of retaining a high quantity of sediment in the wines for its anti-oxidative influence, and hence each of them admitted to a light, overnight cold settling of the wines after pressing.

“I definitely keep more lees now, because the phenolics protect the wine against oxidation – I’m convinced this is for the benefit of the wine in the future,” said de Montille.

Similarly, Lafon said he “didn’t like to throw anything away,” confessing to removing only around 100-150 litres of juice from 20 barrels of Chardonnay, or 4,560 litres.

He also said he owned a meter to measure turbidity in his musts, reporting levels up to 700 nephelometric turbidity units (NTU), when winemaking handbooks suggest anything over 150NTU is too dirty.

Despite possessing such an instrument, he said he decides on the amount and type of sediment to keep in his musts by sight.

“You do a settling with your eyes, and there are nice colours and dirty colours – there are things that are yellow and nice from the skin, and others in the bottom, like bits of earth or a bit of sulphur you sprayed that is almost green, and stinky.”

Then, having discussed fermentation temperatures and barrel selection, the issue of lees stirring or battonage was raised.

While once fashionable to regularly stir the lees to produce rounder, richer Chardonnays, today such an approach is regularly cited as one possible contributory cause for premature oxidation seen in white Burgundy from 1996 onwards, and today it is done sparingly.

“We do much less battonage than we used to,” began de Montille.

Agreeing, Leroux added, “We have a long alcoholic fermentation which gives a natural lees stirring but we hardly do any battonage after 2-3 months because it can dissolve oxygen into the wine.”

Nevertheless, he admitted that in 2007, “We did 2-3 battonages during ageing to bring some fatness around the acidity.”

Similarly, Lafon said that 80% of his white wines experience no stirring, “and it’s very rare we do anything after Christmas to the wines.”

Meanwhile, Hervet said that Faiveley agitate the lees by rolling the barrels on wheels once a week before malo-lactic fermentation and once a month after.

As for protecting the wines after fermentation and maturation, an ongoing concern over premature oxidation is encouraging Burgundians to ensure there is a high level of free-sulphur at bottling.

Commenting on this topic, de Montille said, “We do like to bottle with a high level of free Sulphur Dioxide, from 35ppm to 45ppm for village and premier cru.”

He also said he aims for 800-900mg/l of dissolved Carbon Dioxide in his wines to further help protect the wine against oxidation.

Lafon promoted similar levels of free sulphur and CO2, and said of the latter, “850mg/l is perfect, but 900 is when you start feeling it.”

However, he added that his “goal” was “to get almost no dissolved oxygen” in his wine by passing nitrogen through equipment and hoses as well as precisely controlling all stages in the bottling line.

One Response to “Burgundy seminar report part 1: Reducing the risk of premox”

  1. Andrew Holod says:

    Seems like there is a possibility that a change in the make-up/proportion of yeast strains could also account for the difference in phenolic resistance to oxidation.
    Another factor that I don’t believe was covered was must weight and speed of fermentations. If indeed there has been warmer weather, higher must weights, earlier harvests and hence earlier fermentations you have a completely different environment for the yeast to work in. This could also subtly change the yeast populations over time. It would be interesting to compare degree days, max Temp, yeast/lees management and reports of pre-mox for the trailing 20 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters

Job vacancies

Brand Ambassador – Santa Rita Estates

Santa Rita Estates
London or Hertfordshire but with flexibility to travel, UK

Sales Executive - Wine and Spirits Awards

The Drinks Business
Central London, UK

On-Trade Channel Manager

Delegat Europe Limited (UK)
London / Midlands, GB

Trade Marketing Analyst

Delegat Europe (UK)
London, GB

Key Account Executive

Delegat Europe Limited (UK)
London / Midlands, GB

Senior National Account Manager

Bibendum PLB
London, UK

ON-TRADE Sales Executive

Roberson Wine
London, UK

OFF-TRADE Sales Executive

Roberson Wine
London, UK

Judging Week Runners

Decanter World Wine Awards
ExCel Centre, London E16, UK

Sales Administrator

Les Caves de Pyrène
Guildford, UK

Retail Commercial Executive

Laithwaite's Wine
Theale, Berkshire

Wine Buyer

Conviviality Plc
Crewe, UK

Sales Account Manager - On-Trade

Berkmann Wine Cellars
Liverpool

Sales Account Manager - On-Trade

Berkmann Wine Cellars
M3/M4 corridor

Media Sales Manager - Hong Kong

The Drinks Business Hong Kong
Hong Kong

The Global Merlot Masters 2017

Deadline : 31st March 2017

The Prosecco Masters 2017

Deadline : 10th March 2017

db Awards 2017

Deadline : 28th April 2017

The Global Organic Masters 2017

Deadline : 3rd March 2017

Click to view more

The Global Sparkling Masters

the drinks business is thrilled to announce the launch of The Global Sparkling Masters

The Global Rosé Masters 2016

the drinks business is proud to announce the launch of the Global Rosé Masters 2016.

The Prosecco Masters 2016

Now in its third year, the competition will reflect the growth in popularity of this fresh and exciting sparkling wine from the picturesque regions of Veneto and Friuli.

The Global Pinot Noir Masters 2016

After the success of last year’s competition that judged over 250 wines from no less than 16 countries, the drinks business is proud to announce the third year of the Global Pinot Noir Masters

Click to view more