Popped over to see my parents yesterday, who were staying with my younger sister, Hester. B-in-law William showed me the wines he had lined up for dinner – Ducru Beaucaillou 1996 St Julien, and Bruno Clair Corton Charlemagne 2004. These were both from cases that he’d just had delivered from Justerinis, and there’s an interesting story behind the Bruno Clair.
Some time ago we drank a bottle of the 1996 Bruno Clair Corton Charlemagne, and it was thrilling – one of the best white Burgundies I’d had in a long time. Crisp, complex, taut and ageing beautifully. It was the first bottle of a case, and as William went through the case the next couple of bottles were both orange and oxidised. The curse of premature oxidation which has been haunting white Burgundy, and which began in 1995/1996: people began to find that some bottles in a case were fine, others were shot.
No one knows exactly why. It’s likely that there’s some underlying frailty of the wine that is then exposed by the variable oxygen transmission levels of the corks. Cork was going through a bad phase in the mid-to-late 1990s. With white wines, it’s not uncommon to see little change in the wine as the sulphur dioxide is used up, and then the wine suddenly falls off a cliff and oxidizes quite fast. The efficacy of sulphur dioxide also changes quite a bit with pH (it’s much more effective at lower pH). But no one really knows for sure why white Burgundies are more frail than they used to be.
I helped Hester load some pictures onto her Mac, and in the process found some old family pictures. The top picture is probably from Arthur’s first day at school (he was born 1971, which makes it c. 1976, when Anne and I were 8 and Hester 6). Above is his first day at RGS High Wycombe (the girls were at Beaconsfield High School). I was in fifth form, and I’m still wearing the blazer I started with aged 12 – you’ll notice that Arthur’s blazer is a little large for him. Below we’ve fast-forwarded to 1987. Don’t you love those 80s haircuts? I’ve just finished at Royal Holloway in this picture, and we’re on a family camping holiday.