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2004 WHITE BURGUNDIES: PREMOX OR NOT? THE BEAT GOES ON!

 I had just posted my article on Premox (to read that article click here [1]) when I set off to attend another tasting of the 2004 White Burgundies. I mentioned in the Premox article that Don Cornwell had been doing tastings each vintage of selected White Burgundies for several years. (To see that report click here [2]) This year it is 2004. The first tasting a few weeks ago went quite well. It featured Chablis, Meursault, and Corton Charlemagne. There was only one possible Premox wine and even it was not very advanced. Then came the next tasting with the Grand Crus – Bienvenues Batard Montrachet, Batard Montrachet, Chevalier Montrachet, and Criots Batard Montrachet. The first group was Bienvenues and Criots. One wine a bit advanced, but overall the wines were sound. That left the group to debate mostly which wines they preferred. Then came the Batards. Yikes! What a disaster. Out of 7 Batards, 1 was in an advanced state of Premox, and 2 had terrible off smells and flavors that probably were due to problems with sulphur and possibly tainted grapes. That left 4 that were sound, but only 2 that I thought were outstanding. Then 5 Chevaliers were served. It was a good group. There were several really nice wines and one that was a bit advanced. We began to think that maybe it was Batard that had the worst problems in 2004. But, that is before we had the last 5 Chevaliers. Yikes again! This group had the distinction of featuring the worst 2004 White Burgundy I have yet tasted. It had already turned to sherry! Another was definitely in the late stages of Premox, one was corked, and only 2 wines were worthy of their name.

 

Over the years I have participated in hundreds of wine tastings. But, this  tasting, without question, showed the most dramatic contrast of quality from the best to the worst of any group of highly regarded young wines I have ever tasted. What a sad tale. And, to top it off, the worst wine was, in fact, the 2004 Louis Jadot Chevalier Montrachet Les Demoiselles. I have loved and enjoyed many vintages of this wine since I first tasted it in the 1970s. The 1978 has always been a very great wine and it can still be gorgeous today. (To read my article on the wine click here [3].)   So we have a wine made in 1978 that can be superb at nearly 35 years of age and the same wine from 2004 that is dead at age 8. How sad is that?  There seems to be very little doubt that the Louis Jadot White Burgundies are at the top of the list of Premox wines. This means that Louis Jadot in recent years seems to have been transformed from a producer of gorgeous age worthy White Burgundies to a producer of White Burgundies that are good for only a few years. After that, it is a game of Russian Roulette. And, as I said in my Premox article, I never liked that game. Some have even gone so far as to say that Louis Jadot has deliberately changed their style to make white wines with more forward fruit and satisfy the instant gratification market. I don’t know whether this is the case or not. But, I do know that there is a BIG problem with Premox at the venerable firm of Louis Jadot. That said, I can think of only two reasons why you would want to buy Louis Jadot White Burgundies now: 1) Buy them on release and drink them in the first year or two much like you would most California Chardonnays. 2) Be willing to engage in a game of vinous Russian Roulette which in this case has not one, but multiple bullets in the cylinder. This could really put a dent in your palate and your pocketbook. Given these alternatives, I think you would be well advised to just avoid Louis Jadot White Burgundies. And that may be the case for quite a long time until there is evidence that the wines have reverted back to their historic norm and are capable of aging gracefully. Having said that, it is my sincere hope that the powers that be at Louis Jadot will turn back the clock and begin making their White Burgundies in the traditional age worthy style.

I will publish notes on 2004 White Burgundies that I have tasted over the past year or so in a future Cellar Notes article. And there is a dinner with the 2004 “Mostly Montrachets” that Don has organized that is the last in his series of  “Search for Premox tastings” that is coming up soon. It will feature a great meal at Mélisse Restaurant in Santa Monica. (To read my article on Mélisse click here [4]).  I am hoping for the best, but, in this case, we are challenged with what will be great food with the Premox challenge of what should be some of the greatest 2004 White Burgundies. Of course, for those of us who love and cellar White Burgundy, this is a game that we have been forced to play in recent years. And, I, for one, look forward to the day when this stupid game goes away because the producers of White Burgundy have solved the problem and stopped drinking the Kool Aid!

For now, suffice to say,  the beat goes on with Premox in 2004. Next comes a look at the 2005 and 2006s where I have already encountered random Premox as mentioned in my earlier Premox article. The next real test will be the 2007s and 2008s a few years down the line. Both of these vintages should be long lived. But, my guess is that the dreaded Premox will still be there, especially for the serial Premox producers. For these wines you will need to monitor them regularly by opening a bottle. Then at the first sign of  Premox drink them or find another way of disposing of them. And, I would say that Premox probably will still be with us in the 2009s several years down the road. I further believe it will take another 5-6 years to evaluate the 2010s which are currently being sold. This is a vintage that also should be very age worthy. And, it is the first vintage in the last 15 where the producers who have been working to solve the problem should have it solved. By that time, let’s hope that the ones who are knowingly producing instant gratification wines that do not age, will be few in number and largely vanished from the scene.

The great White Burgundies are the greatest white wines in the world as they evolve slowly from youth to maturity. They certainly deserve to be produced in a manner that preserves their historical profile. If, when the vote is in on the 2010s, there are still those who are making Premox White Burgundies, then they are not only a disgrace to White Burgundy, but a plague on wine lovers every where. Those producers truly deserve their just reward for finding a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And, at that time,  these poor soul White Burgundy producers do not deserve anything but disdain. They have not adhered to the great traditions and have continued to make instant gratification Premox wines with no ability to age and are out of excuses. For those producers who have not realized the error of their ways by then, this is my wish: May your careers be infected with the same Premox that permeates your wines!  And, just forget about the RIP stuff!

 

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson