Friday, July 22, 2011


Aging white Burgundy is a 'poxy' subject these days. Burgundy has the undeniable & unacceptable problem that is premature-oxidation - best known as 'pox'. It is widespread & frustratingly inconsistent. It makes buying white Burgundy both risky & speculative.

That is, if you want to age your white wines. While there are examples of 'premox' (from here on, this is what premature-oxidation will be referred to) in wines less than 5 years old, the numbers / statistics are quite small. Alarmingly, when we exceed the 5 year mark, the incidence accelarates.

Much has been written on the subject & any search on the internet will provide you with swathes of notes, experiences, references, denials, all you need. You will also find that some growers wines suffer more than others. I thought we might look at a young grower with a very high reputation for his much-rated wines; Monsieur VINCENT DANCER of Chassagne & Meursault fame.

Dancer's first wines to display 'premox' were his 1998's. The incidence was high in 1999 & 2000.

Less so in 2001, but 2002 showed an increase on 2001. From personal experience I would estimate the problem to be between 10% - 15% in 2002. This is quite high & definately unacceptable. Of course the great pity is that the unaffected 85% - 90% were somewhere between very good & brilliant. From 2003 - 2006 the incidence is probably 5-10%. No premox has manifested in 2007 - 2010.

This overall pattern is not untypical in Burgundy. Many growers have a higher incidence. Others have been more fortunate. The 'investigation' continues in Burgundy & much money, research & effort contines to flow in attempting to resolve this serious problem. Many wine lovers have understandably decided to stay away from Burgundy until this problem is solved.

More on this subject anon. For the moment I want to briefly look at the unaffected white Burgundies; specifically Vincent Dancer & the question of aging his wines (premox aside).

There are 3 questions worth addressing & they are:

1) do Dancers white wines age & if so for how long?

2) what is Dancer's own opinion on aging his wines?

3) do his wines benefit from aging & if so to what degree?

Do bear in mind that some of the following information is a compliation of my own experiences (11 years), notes extracted from the experiences of wine writers & journalists in UK & USA & finally, feedback from buyers & tasters here at home.

Question 1: Do Dancers' wines age & if so for how long?

In addressing question 1) I admit to not having aged any of his wines longer than 10 years. The wines aged longest were Chassagne 1er Cru 'La Romanée' & Chevalier-Montrachet. Other whites in the stable (excepting Meursault 1er Cru 'Perrieres') are generally not built to age this long. Meursault village wines 'Grand Charrons' & 'Corbins' are generally intended for earlier consumption. Of course some vintages bestow a structure & acid backbone that demand longer than others. 2008, 2005 & 2002 spring to mind in this regard.

At 10 years, which I would consider to be max for 'La Romanée', most have held up rather well, though a number show a 'flatness' or 'dull' character at this age. 'Perrieres' at 10 years is not dissimilar. Chevalier is the possible exception but the question of stylistic preference (as the wine changes with age) should be considered. We will look at this in a few moments.

Village Meursaults & village Chassagnes generally age well for 2-5 years & thereafter begin to loose the freshness you associate with young wine. They then 'fatten out' to a degree that is manifest in most aged white Burgundy.

It would seem that Dancers wines age as well as most growers, but not as long as those of a few other well-known addresses. Among this band of growers are Roulot, Pierre Morey, Matrot, Lafon in Meursault & Jean-Noel Gagnard, Neillon, Ramonet & Leflaive in Chassagne. Their wines are capable of (in some instances need), longevity. To my palate at least, Dancers are more mid-term drinkers. Many are best at 2-5 years.

Question 2: What is Dancer's own opinion on aging his wines?

For question 2) I made a point of raising the issue (as I have done on other occasions) with Vincent Dancer when I visited again in Feb 2011 - does he make / build wines to age?

His answer is always the same & always honest; he makes wines which have aging ability but considers they are best optimised by drinking relatively early. He makes an exception for the Chevalier, which by the way, he says 6-9 years in most vintages. Note - not more.

Dancer recommends consuming village wines between years 1-4. The premier crus from years 3-6. The grand cru 6-9 years.

This is interesting. Critics argue that his wines are exhuberent, lively & mineral in their youth, offering a racy vivacity which interplays with fresh, ripe, lemony fruit. These characteristics are best enjoyed when the wines are young. With age this zesty, citrus spark becomes a little subdued with the advent of a degree of buttery richness & some creaminess. At this point, the lime streak begins to fade into the background. Arguably this is quite normal & for many desirable. However, some critics argue that his wines have more mouth-feel & dimension when young.

"What about complexity that only age brings I asked?". Dancer quizzically retorts "the complexity is evident from the beginning. I agree age introduces some nuances of flavour, but do these nuances make the wine more complex? They change the balance of flavours but it depends on which flavours you prefer most" (Which naturally brings us to question 3)

Question 3: Do his wines benefit from aging & if so, to what degree?

The answer is of course very subjective indeed. Young white Burgundy & aged white Burgundy are different. Wines with aging potential are often unyielding in their youth (2008, 2005 & 1995 stand out) & many of the flavours can be lost if consumed too early. Does this apply to all of Dancer's wines? My personal answer is that only Dancer's top growths need a minimum of 4 years. All of his village wines are more flavoursome to my palate at 1-3 years than at 4-6 years.

Consumed early, the Chassagnes & Meursaults are nervy, vivacious, steely & with lots of acidic attack & mouthfeel. The citrus lemon/lime backbone is much more pronounced. By all means wait a bit & the wines acquire a fuller, fatter (buttery), viscous dimension & if that is the 'taste' you prefer, these wines will produce. To this scribe, the former offers greater excitement.

For 'La Romanée', 'Perrieres' & Chevalier it is a shame not to give these wines a 4-6 year rest. The 'nerviness' (youth) & the 'viscosity' (age) combine beautifully to offer up complexity, length & punch.


It is tempting to say "draw your own" because that essentially is the answer. Drink Dancers wines to suit your personal taste preferences.

It is fair to conclude, from my experiences at least, that Dancers wines are not long haul wines (8-15 years); do not shut down in their youth; are not necessarily tight in their mid-life, only blossoming at full maturity. They offer plenty of enjoyment from an early age. Indeed, at most stages in their cyclical maturation, his wines are not just approachable, they are exciting.

1 comment:

Will said...

Great post Conor,

Thanks for sharing!