So many words have been used to describe it - the 'taste' in 2004 red Burgundy. To keep this essay simple, we'll describe this taste as 'taint'. That is to say, the taste has an 'element', a 'character', (that can also be found in the odour) that displeases. What is it? How did it get there? How serious is it? Three questions which need to be answered. So far, we have no scientific proof & hence the answers remain elusive. One theory leads all others however - that the culprit is 'coccinella'!!! LADYBIRDS!
First to the taste. Despite early fears (i.e Jun - Aug) of oidium & even under-ripeness, the 2004's were harvested with surprisingly high sugar levels. Little need for the addition of sugar therefore. Indeed most growers remarked that there was no need to chaptalise. Acidities were decent. The fruit displayed good levels of freshness. So far so good. By no means a classic, 2004 was a welcome sequel to the 'atypical' 2003's & a good medium-term cellar vintage. There was some rot but sorting tables (triage) eliminated virtually all of that. As usual, the better addresses in Burgundy are well equipped to deal with moderate rot levels. Rot is not the problem.
Some 6-12 months after bottling the first hints of this 'taint' manifested. Initially in the odour, increasingly in the taste. It has been described as carbolic, green, wax-resin, chemical, astringent . . . and so on. Basically it is not particularly nice. Curiously, beneath the odour & after the 'taint' flavour, the fruit is in a perfect healthy state. The freshness has not been eroded or gone away.
How did it get there? This is considered a good question. Not before or since has this flavour, this 'taint', been evident in red Burgundy wines. So what made 2004 unique? Oidium, which causes rot, is a regular visitor to Burgundy. Treatments haven't changed. Mildew is no stranger either. Growers & oenologists alike rule out the rot theory. One potential culprit is the ladybird, for which there was an abundance in 2004. Ladybirds release pyrazines; a chemical compound which can effect the odour of wine and, where abundant, evidently the taste too. I have posted a second Blog today (07 Jan 2010) from an article by Bill Nanson in his Burgundy Report in the autumn of 2008. It is interesting, detailed & plausible. It may well prove to be the 'raison d'etre' for the 2004 'taint'. However, I emphasise that the jury is still out on this matter. To read this report just scroll down this Blog until you come to my next Blog entitled Bill Nanson - The Burgundy Report.
What of the wines? Regretably the incidence is increasing (see report). My own experience is identical to others elsewhere. That is to say, inconsistent, increasing & a cause for concern. Like everyone else too, I find the 2004's otherwise healthy, fruit-driven & fresh. All generic & most village wines drink now. Others will benefit from further keeping. Will this 'taint' diminish or even disappear? Time will tell, but the evidence so far is troubling.
Who is responsible? What can be done? The wine growers are likely to tell you that the ladybirds are responsible! They are certainly not recalling the wines. They argue (& correctly so) that not all wines are affected. Many are perfect. You will find that wines from the same case do not all have this 'taint'.
Wine importers are on a hiding to nothing. Though 2005 Burgundy deflected attention from the 2004's, the reality is, this problem has only manifested itself in the past 12 months. Both 2006 & 2007 Burgundy have been victimised I fear. This is a great pity as both vintages have plenty to offer. The 2006's in particular are proving to be of very high quality.
I will hold a tasting of 2004's in February & a full report will follow on the results. In the meantime, any feedback / comments / experiences etc would be welcomed.
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