Nice visual illustration of the White Bordeaux oxidation issue

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Thomas DiWan, Sep 14, 2018.

  1. Thomas, I agree about the greatness potential of the old wines. (But even there colour is critical to quality: but I guess we can just buy the lighter coloured 1943s as there doesn't seem so much demand for them.) The youngest dry white Bordeaux I now have is 1990 DDC as I've sold unbroken cases in bond and never had that much.

    Last year, I was offered a glass of Pape Clement 2012 by a very well known figure in the wine trade very experienced in Bordeaux in a restaurant who was entertaining customers there. He said it was his last bottle and needed drinking up.

    I think there have been some good pictures by Dreweatts in recent auctions that illustrate the intra-case colour difference even in some recentish vintages of Sauternes too.
  2. Is colour as crucial in Sauternes as it is with dry whites, Paul?
  3. It is not well-known that premox can be a problem in Bordeaux too (and even less well-known that premox can affect red wines too).

    I have come to the conclusion that precious few dry white wines - from wherever - have much to gain from long ageing.

    I do not deny that there are glorious exceptions, but I've had too many disappointments... As long as the wine is well-made and not over-oaked younger is usually better for me.

    All the best,
    Alex R.
    Mark Carrington likes this.
  4. It's different. Some of the richest vintages of Sauternes are almost a disconcerting black but the wines can be great. I am thinking of 1929 and 1906 here, both now surpassing 1921 in general. I have seem some surprisingly light coloured 1929's including non-estate bottled d'Yquem that I would expect aren't very good.

    On the other hand, if we are talking bottles of 1990 - or even 2001 - d'Yquem - the light ones are likely to be better and fresher, but the dark ones may still be ok, just not so exciting.
    Po-yu Sung and Thom Blach like this.
  5. Generally when talking about aged dry white Bordeaux, isn't it really just a few wines? In fact, it is probably just HBB, Laville and DDC, with some allowance for Carbonnieux, Pape Clement and the curious old style Ygrec. Of these, Laville seems to be the most dependable. (I wish I could come across old Pape Clement blanc, because some are apparently as good as it gets but are never seen.)

    I imagine that young Laville of the 1960's and earlier would have been an awkward wine, heavily sulphured, cross-blended from other years but ... if you get a pale-coloured perfectly stored 1964 now, that is something. Also a tiny fraction of the price of modern day MHBB that is unlikely to ever be half as good. And even "off" years like 1969 or 1939 can be surprisingly good.
  6. Speaking of a percentage of all white wine you are certainly correct, Alex, but with white bordeaux in particular-it is a category in which my experience is small but massively larger than with the red stuff-the whole point used to be aged versions where the slightly ugly and vulgar fruit would burn off to be replaced by walnuts, lanolin and nostalgia while retaining both vigour and refreshing qualities. White bordeaux used to age magnificently until the 1990s, possibly better than any other white wine, and I am by no means talking about only the top 5%. Unfortunately it appears not to age properly at all now and to me only the most basic versions are nice drinks in their unevolved state, particular disapprobation being reserved for the dry whites of sauternes estates with the noble exception of Ygrec, which however is preposterously expensive now.
    We cross posted, Paul. I've had some very modest whites from the 70s and 80s which have pleased vastly.
  7. Absolutely not. I've had some wines from châteaux one never hears of that were marvelous when in their third and fourth decades.

    I have no idea if those estates still exist, and if they do, the wines are probably made very differently today.
    Mark Carrington likes this.
  8. Paul,

    You wrote,
    " Generally when talking about aged dry white Bordeaux, isn't it really just a few wines?”

    My viewpoint is radically different from most people on this forum because I do not see Bordeaux as limited to just the great growths. I find explaining this like tilting at windmills…


    You wrote,

    “the whole point used to be aged versions where the slightly ugly and vulgar fruit would burn off to be replaced by walnuts, lanolin and nostalgia while retaining both vigour and refreshing qualities”.

    Slightly ugly and vulgar fruit?
    C'mon! I do allow as Burgundy makes better white wines than Bordeaux, but I think your description of white Bx. is a bit OTT…

    I do not deem ageworthiness a paramount quality in a wine of any persuasion which, once again probably puts me at odds with a number of forumites. If a wine is good young* why the (expletive deleted) wait unnecessarily? Furthermore, in many instances, the wine will be as good 5/10/20 years down the wine, but just in a different way. When you think about it, not actually “better”.

    *Obviously, some wines need long ageing. But the gleeful disposition towards this as a default setting is reactionary in my most humble opinion.

    Best regards,
    Alex R.
  9. I don't disagree much, Alex, I may not have expressed myself clearly. And in fact old white bordeaux is an infinitely better bet and probably a better drink than old white burgundy which is why I find it exciting. I do find the fruit of most young white bordeaux on the whole so tedious that I'd much rather drink beer but that's just me and it applies to a lot of wine. When it comes to the top ones that doesn't apply but I haven't had one come my way since they became rather suddenly frighteningly expensive.
    There are many who quite correctly find me fanatically partisan on the subject of burgundy. That only applies to the red ones!
  10. Just a quick note about sauternes, we had several light colour but tasted or smelled very strange 2001, when the same wine in much darker colour was quite charming just with a little bit caramel nose.
  11. No.
  12. Alex -
    Semillon - one of the major players in Bordeaux whites, changes fairly dramatically on extended cellar (bottle) storage. It's not that you can't make a nice young one, and of course personal taste comes into it. It always does. But that is actually an answer to your question. So why make a short-lived wine when you can make one that is good young but which unfurls yet more complexity with age? The French market will always honour its local producers, but we foreigner types are not so bound.
  13. I’ve had the 64 Laville and the DDC and both were great at 50 years old. The DDC was especially good - one of those ‘how have we finished a bottle this quickly’ moments’. I actually had 4 of the DDC and every one of them was great.

    I still have a case each of the 06 and 07 Plantiers. The 07 is still young and just about coming into its drinking window. Not tried an 06, but not particularly worried about it. Shame the price has doubled since the rebrand as it really was the only sensible 1st Growth Wine to spend money on.
  14. I sold all my post 2000 white Bordeaux... I had various such vintages at DDC, Laville Haut Brion, pape Clément and they all had really bad oxydation issues.
  15. So would you agree with the proposition that most white wines have been subject to the premox pox, not just White Burgundy - though the predominance of the latter in the discussion might be due either to a higher incidence or to the fact that this is the style of wine which has most been cellared for the long term in the past.

    Higher acid whites or those with residual sugar which are typically more heavily sulphured may be less at risk, though in the thread there is reference to advanced sauternes and I certainly found that the 1997 Sauternes aged less dependably than expected.
  16. Yes I would. Trimbach and Huet are other well known offenders.
    Simon Grant likes this.
  17. Agreed. I had considerably more CSH than any other wine. Sold much. Happy with 1990 and earlier ... last bottle I purchased was a 1973 that looks good.

    I suspect that Huet’s problems are more to do with the low sulphur regime adopted by Noel Pinguet in the 1990’s than a Burgundian premox issue. Are producers like Foreau ok since 1990?
  18. I’m not sure Foreau is immune Paul. I’ve had bottles from the period 95-02 that have been surprisingly advanced.

    The issue has also caused me to be very wary about older Weinbach too.
  19. Ian,

    You wrote: "So why make a short-lived wine when you can make one that is good young but which unfurls yet more complexity with age?”

    I think that the equation “increased ageing potential = increased quality” is faulty in many instances, and that nothing intrinsically and inescapably prevents a (relatively) young wine from being as great as it will ever be – especially as we are speaking of white wines on this thread.

    This reminds me of nothing so much as French producers tasting New World wines as little as 3 or 4 years after the vintage, finding them wonderful, but doubting their ageing potential.
    Who cares?
    So long as a wine is good, why not drink it?

    As for complexity, this can be simply fantastic. But, all too often, it is at the expense of fruitiness and vigor.
    I like what the Italians call “wines of mediation” as much as anyone on this forum. But I often find myself wishing I had caught them at an earlier date when they were more vital.

    Two remarks:
    - Obviously, there is no accounting for tastes, no right or wrong here
    - Different wines suit different occasions, and sometimes a subtle old wine is what’s called for, and other times a wine with more energy.

    Best regards,
    Alex R.
  20. Wines of mediation are what we all need in politics these days, but I don't think that's what you meant, Alex. :):cool:;)
    Ian Black likes this.
  21. Possibly. But when you see what kind of prices Bobby Lux aspires to for La Mission Haut Brion Blanc those days, one has to hope those things do end up aging well.

    I know there’s more to Bordeaux than the great growth but I find it hard to get much pleasure out of a young Cru Bourgeois white.

Share This Page