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PREMOX: “WHEREFORE ART THOU?”

POX and Premox [1]

I have been writing about the disturbing trend of White Burgundies to oxidize and turn bad at a very early age for some time. (To read those click on the following articles):
Is One Winedrinker’s Premox Another Wine Drinker’s Botox? [2]
2004 White Burgundies – Premox Or Not? The Beat Goes On! [3]
Get Real – Who’s On First? [4]
This condition of premature aging of White Burgundies is called Premox and began to show up in the mid 1990s. The exact cause has been difficult to pin point, but it may have to do with new techniques employed in making wine to make it more accessible at an early age.  Premox takes a few years to show up and can be somewhat random with some bottles of the same wine showing Premox and others not. So far the most recent vintage where I have experienced Premox is 2008. And, I have encountered it in varying degrees in all vintages back to 1995. Many others have experienced the same results.

But now Premox is believed to have spread to red wines as well. Here are quotes from contributing editor Allen Balik’s recent article in the Napa Valley Register (to read the entire article click here [5]):
…the condition is now being seen in many of the great red wines of the world. Denis Dubourdieu (professor at Bordeaux’s Institute of Oenology and a pioneering researcher in the field) cautions that the condition is not limited to any one region, and winemakers in some of the most notable grapegrowing areas of the world “are in danger of ignoring this threat.” Strong words indeed from someone highly respected in the field….
…when looking at long-term aging of more expensive wines caution and selectivity are a must. Bolder wines made in what is now referred to as the “international style” (so popular with many critics) of high alcohol/low acidity and deeply extracted overripe fruit are shown by most studies to be the most susceptible to premox….

So it looks like that Premox might be happening to many over ripe, super extracted, high alcohol/low acidity wines. These are the new “international syle” wines that get the big points from the big numbers boys. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over time. How many of this style of wine will prove to be not aging well?  I have no personal experience with this because I have not bought or cellared these types of wines. I do not like the style and I have long felt that the wines would not age. Most recently, I expressed an opinion on the new style of Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley in my article Where Has Napa Valley Gone? (to read that article click here) [6].

russian roulette [7]

And, although I do not buy or drink these extracted, high alcohol wines, last year I did taste one cult Cabernet from Napa Valley. At 10 years of age it was dead. The person that served the wine said he bought it because it got 100 points. Strange to me, but many novice wine “investors” have bought large quantities of high numbers wines. This has occurred, despite the fact that there is no track record for any of these wines to improve and last over a long period of time. If Premox is even more widespread as this article suggests, then aging the new “international syle” wines may have become yet another game of Russian Roulette. Since I do not like drinking these “international style” wines young and don’t expect them to age gracefully, I continue to sit out this game. For others who like these wines, sound advice would be to drink them young and be very careful about accumulating a lot of them for “investment”. It’s hard to ever win at Russian Roulette and more so if you stay too long at the party!

In Vino Veritas,Sig

John Tilson