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Oswaldo Costa

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WTN: 2002 Julien Courtois Gamay

by Oswaldo Costa » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:26 am

2002 Julien Courtois 100% VdT 12.9%
Also picked up at Cave de l’Insolite, a storeful of exotica. Julien is the son of the (infamous?) Claude Courtois and this wine is called 100%, no doubt because it is every inch gamay. Though sealed with a natural cork, the bottle neck was covered in a baby blue plastic equivalent of the red wax seal. As I struggled to open it without irradiating too much of a mess, I thought of those among us who won’t buy a bottle unless they can twist the metal foil around. Not just an idle thought because I wonder how much exchange with the outside air these enclosures allow, an issue of greater importance with low SO2 wines because of their increased vulnerability to premature ageing.

In any case, the cork looked good and the smell from the bottle neck was promisingly exotic, a nice mix of old leather, rubber and spice. Sniffing the glass, Marcia and I gagged at the same time: never have I experienced such violent barnyard. Can only be reduction. Marcia keeps saying sulfur and I keep saying how can it be sulfur if there’s almost no sulfur added? She says maybe it’s endogenous but I wonder if endogenous sulfur is ever high enough to generate such a mighty stink. The other word that comes to mind is brett, often seen in these pages, but of which I must confess :oops: my diagnostic ignorance (perhaps I have a high threshold).

Anyway, the stink is such that nothing else comes through on the nose. The mouth says bright, fresh acidity, and there’s infinitely less dog poop there, at this point a quantum of solace. Marcia disagrees with the dog poop characterization, thinking it too strong. She sees it more as rotten eggs.

After more than an hour, the barnyard/reduction/dogpoop/brett/rotteneggs diminishes and eventually fades, leaving nothing behind but more acidity than fruit.

In short, a bust. Must be a victim of low SO2, the "bacteriological time bomb" thing. So at this point I am wondering if a conventional seal (assuming these wax things are more airtight than metal capsules) would have allowed some of the reduction (if it is that) to blow off. Mystery.
"I went on a rigorous diet that eliminated alcohol, fat and sugar. In two weeks, I lost 14 days." Tim Maia, Brazilian singer-songwriter.
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Howie Hart

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Re: WTN: 2002 Julien Courtois Gamay

by Howie Hart » Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:24 am

Oswaldo Costa wrote:...Marcia disagrees with the dog poop characterization, thinking it too strong. She sees it more as rotten eggs...
...In short, a bust. Must be a victim of low SO2, the "bacteriological time bomb" thing. So at this point I am wondering if a conventional seal (assuming these wax things are more airtight than metal capsules) would have allowed some of the reduction (if it is that) to blow off. Mystery.
It may not be either bacterial or low SO2. Rotten egg smell is an indication of H2S (hydrogen sulfide). The main cause of this is reduction, the opposite of oxidation. This happens in wine when the yeast does not have enough nitrogen. Certain strains of yeast, mostly newly developed strains, require high amounts of nitrogen, which must be provided by the winemaker in the form of a "yeast nutrient", added at various stages of fermentation. If the H2S problem is not addressed quickly, the H2S will polymerize into mercaptans, which are much more difficult to deal with. Mercaptans are very aromatic and are added to natural gas and propane so people can smell the gas, which is otherwise odorless. Copper is used to treat such conditions. If you still have some of the wine, try pouring it over a penny (or whatever copper coin is in Brazil) and see if the aromas change for the better.
Chico - Hey! This Bottle is empty!
Groucho - That's because it's dry Champagne.
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Re: WTN: 2002 Julien Courtois Gamay

by Victorwine » Sun Mar 08, 2009 10:02 am

Just to add a footnote to what Howie wrote, if the winemaker did detect H2S sometime during alcoholic fermentation or MLF (or after allowing the wine to sit on its lees) and did splash rack the wine to rid the wine of H2S (highly volatile) this would also lessen the effect of mercaptans (less volatile than H2S-these might not simply blow off like H2S during a splash racking, but they might oxidize into disulfides, which in higher concentrations could actually be less offensive than mercaptans and actually contribute positive characteristics to a wine). If this wine is now bulk aged in an oak barrel where there is a very small amount of oxygen ingress the disulfides might never appear to become a problem. But if one now places the wine in an environment favoring reduction, (with the passing of time) the disulfides can be reduced back to mercaptans.

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Last edited by Victorwine on Sun Mar 08, 2009 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: WTN: 2002 Julien Courtois Gamay

by Oswaldo Costa » Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:10 pm

Thanks, Howie and Victor, that explanation sounds likely. Who would have thought, I'm the victim of ravenous yeasts... Just poured the leftover wine (about 150ml) on an American penny, which I happened to have lying around (thank you, Abe Lincoln). Nothing's happening. How long does it take to take for the penny's copper to suffuse the entire glass?
"I went on a rigorous diet that eliminated alcohol, fat and sugar. In two weeks, I lost 14 days." Tim Maia, Brazilian singer-songwriter.
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Re: WTN: 2002 Julien Courtois Gamay

by Howie Hart » Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:59 pm

If it is just H2S, the difference should be noticeable almost instantly. However, if it has progressed to mercaptans, the penny trick probably won't work.
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Re: WTN: 2002 Julien Courtois Gamay

by Victorwine » Sun Mar 08, 2009 1:29 pm

What year is this Lincoln cent?
http://www.treas.gov/education/fact-she ... cent.shtml

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Re: WTN: 2002 Julien Courtois Gamay

by Oswaldo Costa » Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:05 pm

Victorwine wrote:What year is this Lincoln cent?
http://www.treas.gov/education/fact-she ... cent.shtml

Salute


1981! Is that a good vintage? :lol:

Howie, it was already much less offensive after a day in the fridge. Still, I poured into a glass, sniffed, and found it still somewhat sulfurous. Then I washed the penny, put it into another glass, and poured the wine from the first glass into the second glass. Little difference after five minutes, so I put it in a closet and went out to lunch. After coming back, the sulfur smell had almost vanished, from what you wrote more likely due to simple breathing than the penny. However, when I fished the penny out, it had become much more shiny, almost new! Moral of the story: Courtois Gamay is an excellent metal cleaner.
"I went on a rigorous diet that eliminated alcohol, fat and sugar. In two weeks, I lost 14 days." Tim Maia, Brazilian singer-songwriter.
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Re: WTN: 2002 Julien Courtois Gamay

by Rahsaan » Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:58 pm

Sorry about this. Given that this is a 2002, it has had many opportunities to go off.

Did anyone at the shop have views on how it has aged? Did they wax enthusiastically about how the bottles they tasted were grand and glorious? (I've found that all too often while the bottle I taste at home bear no resemblance to those comments).
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Re: WTN: 2002 Julien Courtois Gamay

by Oswaldo Costa » Mon Mar 09, 2009 9:35 am

Rahsaan wrote:Did anyone at the shop have views on how it has aged? Did they wax enthusiastically about how the bottles they tasted were grand and glorious? (I've found that all too often while the bottle I taste at home bear no resemblance to those comments).


No, we didn't talk about it, I should have asked. When I asked Moulherat about the Overnoy, he just gave it to me, so perhaps he would have given this one too out of fear of spoilage! But the 2002 Robinot Vouvray was splendid, as was the 1999 Overnoy (that didn't have to cross the Atlantic). The remaining purchases were more recent vintages, so should hopefully be OK.
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Re: WTN: 2002 Julien Courtois Gamay

by Rahsaan » Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:44 am

Oswaldo Costa wrote:But the 2002 Robinot Vouvray was splendid, as was the 1999 Overnoy (that didn't have to cross the Atlantic). The remaining purchases were more recent vintages, so should hopefully be OK.


Yes, sounds like you definitely had an interesting selection.

Although Robinot seems to work in a pretty stable style and Overnoy certainly has much more experience than Julien Courtois at making his experiments turn out stable.

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