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May 27, 2013 03:15 PM

What could be the problem with this wine?

Last September I bought two gold-medal winning (Paris) end of bin lots at an annual nationwide supermarket sale.

The Jurançon secs were just fine, but the Loire reds (Pinot Noir) were dead. They obviously had been mis-stored, exposed to too much heat. I do have some experience with this phenomenon. I communicated with the winemaker who is represented by Kermit Lynch in the US. So he’s no slouch.

Odile and I rejected the last bottles in December, and it wasn’t easy getting reimbursed.

I asked the winemaker if there was somewhere down here where I could buy a bottle of his wine. After all he makes red and white, and I am about to start ordering direct from several regions. He said “no” and sent me a case of 2010 red (6) from a better vineyard. After the ordeal of the mishandled lot I was thrilled, but . . .

One bottle was corked, I’m sure, and unfortunately two others opened three months apart are now in the vinegar pot. They had more life than the mishandled wine from September, but the fruit was very weak. He’s now given up on me as some bozo, but I am wondering what possibly could have happened to this wine which was shipped in the dead of the French winter. It’s not closed, there are no unresolved tannins, and three years on this wine should be in its prime. It just has so little going on beside correct acidity and color.

It’s awfully rare that I turn my nose up at a good wine, and I love Pinot Noir.


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  1. I'm not sure what your question is at this point. What makes you think this isn't just a problematic producer?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Leibowitz

      Too many things. One of his wines is recognized as the best in the appellation, Kermit Lynch and Richards Walford in the UK would never touch his wines, he never would have bothered to bottle this wine, MBA from UCLA, one of the stalwarts and the largest exporter of the appellation, too many awards, website description of the wine, price 11€ . . .

      1. re: collioure

        There's a lot of presumption going on there, my friend. The agents, the awards, the website description? The price? Come again, please.

        Especially the price. At this point, you may be expecting too much from a $15 wine. The Loire may no longer be the value it's become associated with. Occasionally, sure. But I don't trust it as much as I used to. Too variable. Have you had others from this producer?

        Let me put it this way: last night I had a bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo that was touted in very similar ways to those of yours. It was simple and the aroma that of a barn (not in the normally good way: it literally smelled like shit). I would compare those two appellations for value and sometimes incredible value (especially considering the recent attention Abruzzo's been getting, leading to according prices). But I don't expect every different wine to hold up. Sometimes they're just simple.

        1. re: Leibowitz

          11€ is the price from the vintner. That buys a good bottle of wine in this country. Indeed hereabout 7€ will do it.

          1. re: collioure

            Define a "good bottle," or this might lead to much chaos.

            1. re: Leibowitz

              A wine that would earn at a minimum a rating of 85 from the Wine Enthusiast.

              For example I buy Martin Codax Albarino across the border in Spain for 8.50€. Invariably rated between 87 and 90. Never disappoints.

          2. re: Leibowitz

            Pardon me if I find the remarks above rather insulting. In this household we consume some 150 bottles every year.

            I normally have over 100 different wines to choose from. In 11 years here I probably have rejected 3 or 4 labels as not worth drinking.

            This wine just doesn't have anything going on.

            I appreciate the ideas of Tombstone below although I don't think either of his ideas fit. It does occur to me that the wine may have been produced from young vines. Would that do it?

            1. re: collioure

              It was not my intent to insult, just to point out some basic elements of the occasional disappointment of wine, as any art. Judging by your further comments, you seem to have completely skipped over them. I, too, am an adventurous drinker, but I've learned not to rely on the whims of the press nor the tastes of the self-interested agencies and notoriously corrupt and inconsistent awards-granters as my determination.

              I'll stop my participation in this thread here as I have no interest in flame wars.

              1. re: Leibowitz

                Well, I think you went a bit far.

                I'm sorry your Montepulciano d'Abruzzo was dreadful. I've never had a bad one.

                Nor had I ever had a really bad red from the Loire before. I do have difficulty knowing when to open the Cabernet Franc wines, but not the Pinot Noirs.

                $15 may not buy a good bottle of wine in the US. Here in France it does.

                  1. re: collioure

                    There are lots of good $15 wines in California.

                    There are bad wines at every price point everywhere in the world.

        2. One of two things:
          1: Oxidation d/t bad cork, etc... the most likely explanation OR
          2: Bad vintage and/or bad estate for that year.

          Can't be much else, except maybe handling between the estate and the consumer... a distributor left cases sitting out in the heat of Summer...

          I've had wines from major-name vineyards that were just INSIPID... nothing wrong with the year or the distribution chain... Your notes just say to me that "this wine is Blah"... and sometimes that's how it is, even in a good year, if the vineyard doesn't get it's winemaking straight.

          ....The first question to ask, is this typical of this vintage, or not? If it's not, then it's vineyard and/or distribution-specific.

          1 Reply
          1. re: TombstoneShadow

            Agreed, with a whole heart. Wine is not beer, scotch, brandy, or brick.

            There are too many variables, although the vintage part seems covered (as if that's a guarantee). I'm surprised that the OP isn't used to this.

            One should also consider the proven inconstance of the palate.

            Nevertheless, the OP had higher expectations than were warranted. I'd suggest a normal Loire table wine was bought and they expected something akin to a 2003 Pommard. Might happen, but probably not.

            France has also had a wine glut for the last fifteen to twenty years. Buying untested wine, European or not, carries its risks.

          2. Uh, gee -- perhaps you just don't like the wine . . .

            1. Maybe they were just over the hill and not that fantastic to start with. Was the gold medal just in competition with other reds from the same appellation?

              I think most if not all the Loire Pinot Noirs I've had were made to be drunk young and fresh soon after release. I haven't had one I liked as much as Alsatian or better Italian Pinot Noirs, let alone Burgundy, or that seemed like a good value.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I don't think so, Robert. This wine is not over the hill. It still has plenty of life, just no taste.

                The medals are won by appellation, but gold medals from the regional competition at Angers and national competitions are not to be sneezed at. I was lucky enough to get some gorgeous Quincy last fall. It had won the regional competition at Angers.

                I have experience with other reds from the Loire, and I've never rejected one before. I happen to love Sancerre rouge, and this wine should be similar though not as good.

                1. re: collioure

                  If you like Sancerre rouge, then you know what to expect, so could be it was just a bad vintage and/or that producer's not one of the better ones for that wine.

              2. Why not mention the specific wine? And, if not heat-damaged, were they prematurely oxidized?

                As an example, I purchased a number of 2009 Loire reds in the same price-range as those you mention by Jean François Mérieau, specifically cuvees of Cot ("Cent Visages") and Gamay ("Le Bois Jacou"). When they were on, they were quite tasty for the level, but a shockingly large number (much greater than 50%) were totally oxidized. I blame the corks which had a very slippery surface and were often slightly depressed in the neck and feeling very loose, but I have no way of knowing whether they were the culprit.

                But I do know that the wines exhibited high levels of prem-ox, and now I no longer purchase from the winery. A very high level of TCA contamination has caused me to not purchase from one winery, and I'm considering not purchasing any more Faustino due to Brett issues.

                If you tell us what the wine is, we might be able to tell you if others have experienced that level of spoilage. And, at the very least, you should warn the rest of us if you're finding high levels of spoilage in a particular wine.

                17 Replies
                1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                  Didn't I say the color was just fine? These bottles are not oxidized.

                  I am going to keep the vintner's name out of this.

                  If you have an idea that fits the situation, I'm still listening.

                  1. re: collioure

                    Have you seen tasting notes that suggest that other people have in the last six months tasted more fruit than you have?

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      No, I haven't. In fact I can't find any.

                      1. re: collioure

                        Several years ago, the strangest thing happened to me: I could no longer "taste" pinot noir--wines that others would crow about to me tasted null--dead, no flavor. It made no sense then and still doesn't--I can taste all sorts of wines perfectly well but pinot noir? Non. Open a bottle of burgundy or another pinot you have on hand--see if you too have somehow encountered this syndrome. Just a thought...

                        1. re: penthouse pup

                          Thanks, but I taste Pinot very well, and I've had a few delicious Burgundies, the best and most abundant fine wines in my cellar, since this began.

                          My wife also turned her nose up at these.

                          I still have three to open and I'll keep all these remarks in mind as I open them.

                          Moreover, I'll try to buy a similar bottle in Paris next week.

                          BTW you hardly know this appellation in the USA. Only three wines rated in the Wine Enthusiast buying guide. I have found nice value here and in the neighboring, also little known, appellation.

                          1. re: collioure

                            If we "hardly know" this appellation, why are you asking what seem to be mostly US wine drinkers?

                            1. re: jlbwendt

                              Hey, wine is wine.

                              The reason it is flawed would apply to wine from any origin.

                              I'll be picking up a bottle or two of his Pinot Noirs next week in Paris.

                              BTW one of his Pinot Noirs is available on Amazon.

                              1. re: collioure

                                As politely as I can possibly say this: who gives a ****??? The point here is that you're playing games with the name of the producer, and it's a) irritating beyond belief, and b) wasting bandwidth. It DOES matter where the wine is from, what the wine is, etc., etc. And just how many Pinot Noirs do you think are available on Amazon, anyway?

                                I do believe you are sincere in your initially asking for ideas and/or opinions as to what could be wrong -- but you've shot down every possible suggestion, and requests for more information have been met with cagey little replies, like "you hardly know this appellation in the USA" (then why are you asking us in the first place???) and "Kermit Lynch and Richards Walford in the UK would never touch his wines" (do you know that the wines sold by Kermit, and other US importers of note, and NOT the same as the wines sold elsewhere in the world?), and "MBA from UCLA" (which tells me what specifically about the wine, may I ask?) . . .

                                Hope you read this quickly, because no doubt the mods will kill it . . .

                                1. re: zin1953

                                  I'm not playing any games, Jason.

                                  The name of the vintner matters not. Neither does the appellation in which I have confidence.

                                  If you read carefully here, you'll note that I will be able to buy his wines in Paris next week (in a good shop). So all these negative remarks about the vintner are probably off target.

                                  The only answer to my inquiry that seems to fit is mishandling during shipping.

                                  I'll not bother with your other pecadillos.

                                  1. re: jlbwendt


                                    The other possibilities seem not to fit.

                                  2. re: collioure

                                    Sorry, but I must be really daft here. What exactly are you asking for?

                                    Is it validation that this obscure wine is not "up to snuff," regardless of the appelation's awards, or validation that you just do not like this wine?

                                    It seems as though you have ruled out most of the common flaws, so what else can one offer?

                                    Good luck, and hope that you find better wines.


                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      Maria, with a reference I couldn't find, put her finger on the problem

                                      "Jamain's problems with grape rot and unstabilzed wines, and his high risk of vinifying organically when bad molds/rot are prevalent in a vineyard. It's the perfect storm for weak/thin wine."

                                      Not a wine problem I had ever ecountered before.

                                      1. re: collioure

                                        Got you, and thanks for the clarification - producer issues.

                                        Thanks and good luck,


                                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                                        Sorry, Bill, I should have warned you . . . ;^)