In our tireless efforts to combat the premox (premature oxidation) problem coming out of Burgundy and provide our customers with the best bottles and most current information on the subject, as related to our inventory, we routinely go through our white burgundy and assess the color of the wines that fall within the limits of the afflicted years (1995-?). Over the past few years since the problem became widely discussed MFW has “graduated” its entire staff from the school of premox detection through tireless and repetitive comparison of the many bottles of white burgundy in our collection.
The most obvious and simple method of premox detection is tasting and it is almost always a part of MFWs “cull or keep” process. How does it smell and how does it taste? The answer is most often plain to see, or rather smell/taste. If you have ever tried a prematurely oxidized white burgundy you know how obvious it is. However, this method cannot be solely relied on if there is to be any mid-late 90s wine left to pass on to customers because by nature the process requires opening and thus “destroying” the bottle in question.
A different technique is required in order to assess bottles and keep them intact, that method is based on using much less obvious visual cues for analysis. Part of what makes the eye test more complicated than the taste test are the many various colors and shades of glass that are in used in Burgundy. These variations make the task of assessing the clarity and color of the wine nearly impossible for the uninitiated. Is the color due to age or premox? To make a long story shorter, the key to successful premox detection by eye is the clarity, in addition to color, of the wine. This can really only be accurately judged by those with reference points born out of experience. Through trial and error MFW has become very skilled at the art of detecting premox.
In this most recent round we came across a few old/rare bottles of the above wine and fell immediately to the task of analyzing the juice. In this instance Faiveley uses a brown glass for the 2,780 bottles produced of their Corton Charlemagne. In part a choice to defend against sun exposure, the use of brown glass is the most difficult glass through which to detect and assess the health of a white wine. What is an age appropriate gold/deep gold color and what is borderline-flagrant premox? In this case we found Faiveley’s Corton to have not only survived the scourge but to have thrived in its older years.
Note: The wine has a deep golden color with the clarity of a healthy wine. Fully mature, the nose offers up complex aromas of mellow, creamy citrus, subtle cinnamon and faint whiffs of petrol. The palate is soft and luxurious with a creamy, rich mouth-feel and notes of golden yellow apple, honey and again, subtle spice. The wine’s firm acidity is key to the protection and presentation of its generous sensory experience as well as its longevity. A true delight from an unheralded vintage.