Catastrophic flooding in Venice, “highest tide in 50 years.” Live video via La Repubblica.

“Venice Floods Because of Highest Tide in 50 Years,” according to a report published two hours ago by the New York Times. “The mayor called for a state of emergency and the closing of all schools after the Italian city was submerged under ‘acqua alta,’ an exceptionally high tide.”

See the live video from national daily La Repubblica embedded below.

Venice and its lagoon are a designated UNESCO heritage site. It’s also a living, breathing city where people go to work and study and parents send their kids to school every day.

It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening there.

See also coverage on the La Repubblica website (in Italian but the images tell a thousand stories).

Top image via Wikipedia Creative Commons (2008).

Premox (premature oxidation) in white Burgundy: could modernity be the culprit?

Earlier this month, I had the immense fortune to attend a seminar with Jean-Marc Roulot of Domaine Roulot, legendary producer of Mersault. The event was part of the 2019 Boulder Burgundy Festival (I’ve been the gathering’s blogger for the last six years).

Everyone in attendance at the standing-room-only tasting was rapt with Jean-Marc’s earnestness and transparency in talking about his wines, including the challenges he’s faced in his 30 years at the winery.

But most impressive was his forthrightness when the sticky subject of premature oxidation — “premox” as it’s known in trade parlance — was raised. After all, many of the attendees were top Burgundy collectors who have been deeply disappointed with the cellaring potential of their investment.

“I have discovered that a large number of bottles of white Burgundies from the ’90s suffer from a phenomenon known as premature oxidation,” wrote leading sommelier and author Raj Parr in a dire “Warning on White Burgundies” in 2007 (Wine Spectator). “Simply put, these wines show various stages of advanced oxidation, and this state is not what would normally be expected given their relatively young age.”

(See also this in-depth essay published by World of Fine Wine in 2014.)

Although many believe that a high-quality cork shortage (owed to high demand) might be the culprit, no one really knows what has caused premature oxidation in white Burgundy.

Jean-Marc attributes the trend, he said, to a combination of factors, including, possibly, the scarcity of good cork.

But he believes, he said, that the problem is due to a new wave of consulting enologists in the 1990s who encouraged winemakers to press and vinify the wines too swiftly. The focus was on maintaining the freshness and aromatic character of the wines in a decade when fruit was arriving in the cellar riper than in previous years thanks to climate change (we know now).

After some of his wines suffered from premox, he told the tasters, he decided to reserve roughly 10 percent of his grape must and let it oxidize slightly before vinifying. He’s found, he said, that by letting some of the must gently oxidize, premature oxidation of the wines seems to have been avoided.

In a sense, it’s possible that it was modernity itself to blame. Coming away from the tasting and talk, I couldn’t help but think to myself, it wasn’t broke until they tried to fix it.

Jean-Marc’s wines are extraordinary, although expensive and extremely hard to find in North America. I’d only ever had the opportunity to enjoy them in France, in the occasional overlooked bistro, when my band was touring there. Many consider him one of the greatest producers of white wine in the world today. And many American winemakers try to emulate his style by using what has come to be known as the “Roulot Method” (although he claimed adamantly not to have invented it). What a great experience to get to taste with him! Drink his wines if you can!

Taste cru Barbera d’Asti, Barolo, and Barbaresco from Scarpa tomorrow night with me in Houston

Riikka Sukula (above) and I will be pouring the following wines from Scarpa tomorrow night at Vinology in Houston starting at 7 p.m.:

Monferrato Freisa Secco La Selva di Moirano 2006
Nebbiolo d’Alba Bric du Nota 2016
Barbaresco Tettineive 2015
Barolo Tettimora 2013
Barbera d’Asti La Bogliona 2008

Everyone is welcome but please send me a note (email below) so that I can get an exact head count.

This is going to be a super fun tasting. Looking forward to sharing these amazing wines with you!

@ Vinology
Thursday, November 7
7:00 p.m.
2314 Bissonnet St.
(832) 849-1687
Google map

Italian wine is my signora but Burgundy is my mistress: notes from day 1 at the Boulder Burgundy Festival

Last night found me at the 9th annual Boulder Burgundy Festival in Colorado where I’ve worked as the event’s official blogger for the last six years.

Even though it’s not my first rodeo (as we say in Texas), the thrill of getting to taste these spectacular wines, especially the “old and rare” wines at the festival’s kick-off event each year, has never worn off.

The flight for last night’s sold-out tasting of 30+ wines was selected by Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher from the Somm Foundation Cellar. There were wines stretching back to the 1930s and a number of show-stopping wines from the 1970s.

But my personal highlights were the 1985 Mongeard-Mugneret Grands-Échezeaux (above) and the 1996 Michel Bonnefond Ruchottes-Chambertin (below).

The 1993 Domaine René Engel Grands-Échezeaux (above), from a challenging vintage, wasn’t bad either, a truly rare wine in part because the estate no longer exists.

When you taste wines like these, it’s easy to understand why wines from Burgundy are so coveted by collectors. They were all vibrant and teeming of life, with nuanced aromas and flavors that lingered on the palate. The 85 Grands-Échezeaux was especially compelling.

What an incredible tasting!

I am so grateful to my long-time friend Brett Zimmerman for making me part of this gathering and experience. He’s been so generous to me. And I’ve been so glad to get to know many of the collectors who attend the festival each year and share their wines at the event’s marquee tasting, the Paulée Inspired Lunch.

This year’s featured producer is Jean-Marc Roulot and I’m really looking forward to his seminar on Sunday.

It’s all a bit of a dream for me. I spend most of my year tasting and working with Italian wines. But every fall, I take a break to come up here for these remarkable, truly extraordinary tastings.

Italian wine is my signora (and how I make my living). But Burgundy is my mistress.

Click here for my write-up on the first event of the featival including notes on the Somm Foundation Cellar and how it helps aspiring sommeliers and wine professionals.