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The '96 White Burgundy Time Bomb

I don't have a lot of room or patience for aging wines. I tuck a few bottles away for a few years, but I'm not a collector bent on enjoying my wines for decades. I drink most of what I buy within 5 or 6 years. That's especially true for white wines, which I tend to consume in the first 3 or 4 years of their lifespan. I have recently started putting away an occasional white Burgundy or Chenin Blanc just to see what time does to these bottles.

It looks like it's a good thing I didn't start with 1996 White Burgundies. In what appears to be a spookily consistent manner, like one species of fish starting to wash up on the shore, 1996 White Burgundies are dying by the case.

You know this has to be pretty widespread for it to be considered a real phenomenon instead of isolated cases of poor cellarage by less than competent retailers, restaurateurs, and collectors. No, thanks to Michael Steinberger and Slate Magazine, I've learned that this is really some sort of epidemic.

People are even doing recalls of the wine for refunds. The odd thing is, that now I really have a hankering for 1996 White Burgundy. Perhaps that's just the wine equivalent of the tendency that makes us actually take a morsel of food proffered by a friend with the exclamation "oh, gosh, this is awful. Try it..."

Read all about it.

Comments (5)

The Corkdork wrote:
07.07.05 at 10:17 PM

Alder, I had one of the top white burgundies the other day, a '96 Chateau de Maltroye and it too was on the virge of being shot. It still had some lovely overtones to it, but it was probably best a couple of years ago. Compared to the 2000 Mikulski Genevreiere we had as well, it seemed pretty tired.

Ben wrote:
07.08.05 at 7:54 AM

That theory about letting grass grow is pretty crazy. It seems one of the big parts of the clean agriculture movement is to let some sort of ground cover grow between the rows, but I guess you have to be careful. I wonder what they will decide to do in reaction to that idea. Plow the grass under in times of drought? That would probably do the same thing with the rain as washing your car. Then you'd have all your soil washing off your vineyard. Look at me! I'm no farmer, yet I keep talking about viticulture. Anyone out there that can explain?

Alder wrote:
07.08.05 at 9:03 AM

I agree, it sounds pretty crazy. I think a lot of winemaking is still a mystery to even many of the most accomplished winemakers, whether they're willing to admit it or not.


antonio wrote:
07.21.05 at 2:29 PM
Alder wrote:
07.21.05 at 3:55 PM


Thanks for the pointer to the article (which for anyone who doesn’t care to click on it is a column by Eric Asimov about a tasting of White Burgundies and a couple of white Bordeaux, a 1980 Kistler and a Joly Chenin Blanc).

I'm gonna use this as an excuse to get on my soapbox about wine writing.

This sort of column is a complete mystery to me. Eric Asimov has written some excellent pieces in the past, but often he writes things like this, which are barely above the level of interest. Basically here's what the column boils down to in my opinion:

1. I went to a fancy wine tasting with some big name people in the biz
2. We drank some wines. Here's what they were and what I thought of them.
3. Some wines get better with age. Some don’t.
4. This one was my favorite.

SO WHAT !? How does that help anyone learn anything about wine, how does that help anyone appreciate wine? I consider the tasting reports that I post from the group tastings I attend to be the most boring thing that I put up here on Vinography. Granted scores for 200 Zinfandels help people zero in on the better wines, but I just don't understand why Asimov (and MOST OF THE WINE WRITERS IN THE INDUSTRY) choose to write columns like this.

At the end of the day, they are meaningless.

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