Playing Russian Roulette with Puligny Montrachet

I have got fed up with the premox problem and am drinking all my 2002 and 2005 white Burgundies, whether they are Chablis premier or grand cru, or Côte d’Or premier cru (alas I do not have much in the way of grand crus, except for a couple of bottles of Le Montrachet).

This evening was Leflaive’s Clavoillon Puligny 2005, the last bottle of a half case. I did not have high expectations, because there’s been significant variation among previous bottles: some have showed obvious touches of oxidation, some have showed signs of fruits drying out, some have been overly phenolic. This one was perfect.

I was just amazed to have a bottle that showed the sheer perfection of what a top premier cru from Puligny should achieve at ten years of age. Here’s the tasting note:

Noticeably paler than previous bottles. Forceful citrus and stone fruits show with touches of grapefruit and apricots, slowly developing those steely mineral overtones that epitomize Puligny. The phenolic overtones that were overly evident in some previous bottles develop more slowly here and are integrated into the granular texture of the palate. Palate is complex, hard to disentangle flavor and texture – if only they were all like this.

I don’t know whether to lament the fact that the previous five bottles were all in some way at least slightly disappointing due to premox or associated problems, or whether to say Hallelujah! now we see what it’s all about. Given the cost of white Burgundy these days, I’m temperamentally inclined to sackcloth and ashes rather than celebration.

This seems an appropriate point to consider the premox problem, as the first vintage to show the premox problem was 1995, twenty years ago. Today’s wine is ten years old, so it marks the halfway point. The problem wasn’t solved then, and I’m not completely convinced it is now. Should they be considering screwcaps in Burgundy?

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4 thoughts on “Playing Russian Roulette with Puligny Montrachet

  1. I feel you pain because I am a lover of white Burgundy. Yesterday we went to Morrell’s wine shop and had a Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne 2010. One bottle was oxidized and the other was not. Wondering if the solution is to buy white Bordeaux

    • A 50% rate suggests that premox has not been solved yet (even though sample size is small!). What would happen to refrigerator manufacturers if 50% of fridges failed on arrival? Problem with white Bordeaux is that there are only three or four chateaux up to the level of Corton Charlemagne. There doesn’t seem to be a premox problem in Bordeaux, although the wines don’t have the same longevity as white Burgundy used to. What about Grand Cru Chablis as compromise – some can be quite powerful in rich vintages, and there seem to be fewer premox problems (I haven’t had much problem with Chablis under ten years of age). It’s another style, of course, but top Rieslings from Alsace can be terrific – and have great aging potential.

  2. I’ve heard that magnums of Leflaive doesn’t have premox issues. But don’t know it’s true or a myth? I don’t have any personal experience with it as magnums rarely come around and surely the production of that format must be low.

    • Magnums should have less susceptibiltiy but I don’t have any personal experience. However, in the past couple of weeks I have had a bottle of 2005 Leflaive Clavoillon that was distinctly oxidized and a 1999 Pucelles that was absolutely brilliant, so there is really no consistency.

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