December 14, 2008

Bottle Shock: The Verdict

I know you're anxious for results. Lord knows I've strung this out long enough.

But first a few words about the producer of our test wine and the stupidity of others (in this case, French others).

Jean-Paul Brun's Domaine des Terres Dorées is in the Southern Beaujolais just north of Lyon. Brun believes in using indigenous (not industrial) yeasts, restricts the use of SO2 to the minimum levels needed to protect the wine and generally believes his wines should serve as an expression of their vineyard and vintage (hint: that's terroir). Unlike many, if not most, Beaujolais winemakers, Brun doesn't add sugar during winemaking to increase alcohol levels; a process known as chaptalizing. It's something we here at the Lab like to call "cheating."

And yet... because his wines are distinctive, elegant, even, site-expressive wonders, it was recently decided that some of them must be declassified as Beaujolais AOC and sold as plain and simple Vin de Table. So if you see any, Jean-Paul Brun Table Wine on the shelves, buy it! And if you should happen to meet someone from the Beaujolais AOC committee, poke them in the eye! (if you want to read all the details you can go to the website for champion importer Louis/Dressner and search "Brun").

Now, back to our results...

We tasted the two bottles of Brun's Cote de Brouilly. Blind. And in truth, we didn't really expect to get a result.

There's no such thing as shipping shock, right?

The first bottle has nose of bright cherry fruit, stewed tomato and peppery spice. The palate has the same profile with a beautiful mineral core that lingered through the finish. This wine has structured elegance, poise and purity. It's really beautiful stuff.

The second bottle, meanwhile, has the same basic olfactory and flavor profile, but is slightly warm (meaning: some alcohol is showing) with a greenish bite on the finish.

It was the second bottle that just arrived at the Lab.

The results were obvious and convincing, if unexpected. A shipped bottle performs better after a little rest. In this case, 6 weeks. Well, as convincing as a single trial can be.

Was the second bottle bad? No. But the first bottle was better. Appreciably so. And there wasn't a single member of the tasting staff that didn't think so.


Tim Corliss said...

I'm curious to hear your thoughts about bottle variation and how that may or may not have been a factor.

Chief Executive Researcher said...

Tim, It's a factor. And given our result, we're discussing expanding our protocols for a larger-scale trial at the Lab today. And probably with a wine(s) under screw-cap (Stelvin) to control for further variation owing to cork.

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I have this correct. Some one in the Cote du Merde, Jean-Paul Brun, makes above average wines, which because they are uncharacteristic of the region, had to be declassified?

Chief Executive Researcher said...

That's basically it.

You'd think the French would stage a Postal Strike or something in protest.

Anonymous said...

Maybe instead of doing just two glasses where you know the wines are different, you should do a triangle test (3 samples where two are the same) and see if you can pick the odd one out. This is the standard sensory evaluation to determine if there is a perceptible difference in two "treatments". The idea is that if there are only 2 that you know are different you may be biased to think that differences exist.